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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 3 (94) 2011

Table of contents:

burning issue

EP President considers MEP question concerning women rights to abortion inadmissible. Using in an arbitrary manner the rules of procedure of European Parliament, the President Buzek deemed inadmissible the question of SYRIZA (GUE/NGL) Member of Parliament Mr. N. Chountis, referring to the resolution of the Council of Europe on abortion. At 7th of October 2010 the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe adopted a resolution titled “the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care” (1763/2010). In this resolution is mentioned “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.” The MEP questioned about what is the Commissions position in relation to the mentioned resolution and he asked which measures will the Commission take in order to prevent the prevalence of extreme conservative views on the pretext of freedom of conscience are trying to restrict the women rights. The question was deemed inadmissible by the Polish Christian Democrat President of the European Parliament, Mr Buzek. This incident adds to our concerns with the deteriorating situation for SRHR in the European Parliament. ASTRA Network believes that Mr Buzek’s behaviour represents dangerous signal regarding SRHR across the EU.

Read more: European Left

regional updates

Azerbaijan: Abortions of females on the increase.According to Azerbajian activists, women pregnant with girls are being forced to undergo abortions or even being abandoned by their husbands because their families are determined to have male children. The situation has got so serious that parliament is discussing banning abortions after the sex of the child is known to prevent the gender proportions in the population becoming dangerously unbalanced. Islamic scholars assure Azeris that Islam not only outlaws choosing between boys and girls, but also abortions. However, their words have no effect in a country where boys are considered significantly more prestigious than girls. The trend is having a significant effect on the proportion of boys and girls born in the country. According to the State Statistics Committee, in the first nine months of 2009, 109,500 children were born, 54.1 per cent of them boys and 45.9 per cent girls. Currently, the population as a whole shows almost equal numbers but if the abortion of female foetuses continues then the country could become unbalanced. According to the statistics committee, 25,000 abortions were conducted in 2008, up from 22,000 the year before. More than 60 per cent of them took place in the third month of pregnancy, which is when the sex of the child can be easily discovered by ultrasound scans. That, experts say, is likely to mean the majority of the aborted foetuses were female. The potential demographic effect of the trend has spurred officials to take action, and a group of parliamentary deputies has drawn up a bill on reproductive health and family planning. The proposed law would ban women from finding out the sex of the child before the third month of pregnancy and ban abortions after the third month. Further, it would also ban anyone from choosing the sex of the future child during artificial insemination.

Source: InfoSud

France: Controversy on French law on anonymous childbirth. On 27 January, the French Court of Appeals of Angers ruled that custody of an infant born under the country’s anonymous childbirth law should go to its maternal grandparents against the mother’s wishes, overturning the provisions stipulated by the controversial legislation known as "accouchement sous X" (childbirth under X) which allows for any woman to give birth under complete anonymity. This court ruling follows a recent report that Brigitte Barèges, a member of parliament for the ruling UMP party, submitted to the prime minister urging that anonymous delivery be replaced with a system that would oblige a woman to reveal her identity at birth so that anonymous babies can get to know where they came from once they have attained majority. The Sous X law is still at the centre of a controversy that has gone as far as the European Court of Human Rights, as those "born under the X" seek to claim their identities. The system of anonymous births in France is embodied in the laws of January 1993 and July 1996, as well as the law of 22 January 2002 on "Access by Adopted Persons and People in State Care to Information about their Origins" which allows arrangements to be made for disclosure of identity subject to the mother's and child's express consent being obtained.

Source: IPPF EN

Hungary’s new constitution won’t ban abortion.The number of newborn babies in Hungary fell 6.3% to 90,350 last year, according to official data. The government is determined to boost this number and put Hungary’s population back above 10 million. Contrary to original proposal, the new Hungarian constitution won’t ban abortion. Still, the country’s government wants to see more children and will use other means than a constitutional ban on abortion to achieve it. It has so far cut income taxes for parents and extended maternity leave to three years from two. It plans more places at kindergartens and considers granting extra voting rights to parents.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Hungary: Ruling on Gay March a Human Rights Victory.The Metropolitan Court of Budapest overturned the ban imposed by the police on the Pride March scheduled to take place 18 June 2011. Rainbow Mission Foundation, , a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organization, made a formal request to the police in September 2010 to hold the gay pride march in June 2011. Because the police did not deny the request within two days, it was automatically approved under national law. In February, the organizers of the event decided to extend the route to end at Parliament Square, but the police denied their request. The court refuted the police claims that the extended route of the march would unduly obstruct traffic. The right to the freedom of assembly is enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In Bączkowski and Others v Poland in 2005 and Alekseyev v. Russia in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that banning a LGBT pride parade violated the right to freedom of assembly and association.

Source:ASTRA Secretariat

Poland : Parliament passes Gender Quota Bill.The Polish Parliament has approved a bill which aims at promoting gender equality in the country’s political life. According to the new legislation, at least 35 percent of all candidates on the lists of all parties running for seats in the 460-seat lower house must be women. The rule will not apply to elections to the 100-seat upper house, the Senate. Currently women account for some 20 percent of deputies in the lower house and for only 8 percent of senators. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for autumn in 2011.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on LGBT rights, please visit:Human Rights Watch

Poland: Conscientious objection for the pharmacists.The Human Life International Poland and the Human Life’s Friends Club on 17th of February called for signing a petition concerning the right of the Polish pharmacists to refuse to sell the contraceptives in pharmacies. The HLI Poland has created a special website where a support for the right of pharmacists to refuse to sell the contraceptives, called by HLI Poland “miscarriage pills”, can be expressed. This wording illustrates best how scarce is the knowledge about contraception in Poland, even among health professionals. Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning hot line operators report the lack of information and knowledge regarding difference between contraceptives, emergency contraception drugs and abortifacients. According to current regulations, pharmacies are obliged to sell all the drugs registered in the national drug registry. The anti-choice initiative is based on the resolution “The right to conscientious objection clause in the legal care” adopted by the Council of Europe last year and claims that pharmacists, as health care professionals, also have a right to use a conscientious objection.

More:Federation for Women and Family Planning

Romania: Romanian women endured 22 million abortions after dictator’s ban on contraception.Shocking health statistics have revealed how Romanian women went through more than 22 million abortions as a result of policies introduced by Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu seeking to push up the country’s population by banning all forms of contraception. Official government records have revealed that between 1958 and 2008 state clinics carried out 22.1 million terminations in a country with a population of just 21.5 million. The true figure could be even higher as tens of thousands of pregnant women carried out DIY abortions or attended illegal clinics.

Source:Daily Mail

Serbia: Stigmatisation of human rights defender Ms Aida Ćorović.On 14 February 2011, the Serbian daily newspaper published an article stigmatising human rights defender Ms Aida Ćorović, activist working for support of women's rights and secularism in State institutions and against religious fundamentalism.The article contained open threats and insults of a personal nature (such as stating that Aida Ćorović is “frustrated by failures in her personal 'gender life'”). It also accused her of preparing the ground for a new genocide over Bosniaks and of being paid to “spit on the people”. Furthermore, the article claims that Aida Ćorović's activities will have negative consequences for Serbia's inter-ethnic relations. A joint statement condemning the article was issued by a number of Serbian human rights organisations, which demanded an apology to the newspaper for publishing an article that borders hate speech. The statement also referred to previous instances of stigmatisation of human rights defenders by political and religious leaders, including in particular through the official media of the Islamic community in Serbia “Voice of Islam”. On 17 February 2011, the President of Serbia intervened condemning the use of “hate speech”.

Source:Human Rights Watch

Slovenia: Extend Civil Marriage to Same-Sex Couples.Human Rights Watch called the Slovenian Parliament to adopt the new Family Code proposed by the Slovenian Government. The law would extend civil marriage to lesbian and gay couples and put heterosexual and homosexual partnerships on equal legal footing, including the right of same-sex partners to adopt. The proposed Family Code is Slovenia’s chance to join others in Europe in enabling same-sex couples to participate fully in family life. The right to marry is a basic human right enshrined in both article 12 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and article 9 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights (Charter), as is the right to respect for private and family life in articles 8 and 7 respectively. The right to equality and to be free from discrimination is also stipulated in article 14 of the ECHR and articles 20 and 21 of the Charter. On March 31, 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted a set of recommendations to member states, including Slovenia, on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Slovenian government first proposed the bill in September 2009. In accordance with international human rights standards and in line with recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and Slovenian national courts, the new Family Code would make three significant and necessary changes: (1) In article 2, “family” is defined as a union of an adult, or two adults, and a child, with the required bond based on the adult’s role as caregiver rather than his or her biological connection. (2) Article 3 stipulates that “matrimony union” is a union between two people of a different or same gender. (3) Finally, article 213 provides the right of single- or joint-parent adoption for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

To read the Human Rights Watch letter to Slovenian members of Parliament, please visit:Human Rights Watch


EU reaffirms its position on the importance of SRHR in achieving gender equality at the Commission on the Status of Women. Mr. Miklos Retheyli, the natural resources minister of Hungary spoke on behalf of the EU during the general discussion of the 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Retheyli reminded that the EU has mainstreamed gender equality and women’s empowerment into all policy areas by way of the Action Plan on women’s equality and empowerment in development, adopted in June 2010. The EU conveyed its strong support of the Cairo Programme of Action and further to this, asserted that gender equality cannot be achieved without guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

To read full details of the EU’s position at the session, please see:European Commission

Public Health Committee adopts Report on Reducing Health Inequalities within and beyond the EU, with a focus on Maternal Health. The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) adopted its Report on Reducing Health Inequalities in the EU. The Report urges EU Member States to abandon a purely GDP-oriented approach to measuring societal, community and individual development. It pushes for the inclusion of equity and health across EU policy domains emphasizing its importance as a necessary precondition for the achievement of the MDGs and in particular maternal health. The accompanying opinion submitted by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality calls for EU Member States to facilitate access to contraception and safe abortion.

For more information on the Report, please see:European Parliament

Comprehensive New Study Finds No Causal Link Between Abortion And Mental Health Problems. An authoritative new study from researchers in Denmark, noteworthy for its exceptionally strong methodology, confirms what the best scientific evidence has long shown—that there is no causal link between abortion and mental health problems. The new study, “Induced First-Trimester Abortion and Risk of Mental Disorder,” by Trine Munk-Olsen and colleagues, was published in the January 27, 2011, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study succeeds in addressing several critical limitations that have afflicted some other studies that purport to show causation between abortion and subsequent mental health problems. The study found no higher rate of mental health problems among Danish women in the 12 months following an abortion than in the nine months prior to the procedure. Antiabortion activists have relied on questionable science in their efforts to push inclusion of the concept of “postabortion syndrome” in both clinical practice and law. This latest study strongly confirms the existing body of methodologically sound evidence in clearly refuting the idea that abortion causes harm to women’s mental health. The body of evidence is now so robust that researchers should consider shifting their focus to related issues that might be more valuable to explore, such as the factors that cause women to experience mental health problems in the first place.

More:Guttmacher Institute

The fifty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women is taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from Tuesday, 22 February to Friday, 4 March 2011. The theme for this 55th session is access and participation of women and girls to education training science and technology, including for the promotion of women's equal access to full employment and decent work.

For more information please see:UN

upcoming events

ASTRA Network at CSW - Launch of ASTRA Youth Report. Representatives of ASTRA and ASTRA Network will speak on panel on sexuality-related problems of adolescent girls and boys in Central and Eastern Europe. The discussion will be opportunity for launching ASTRA Youth’s newest publication ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Adolescents in Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan Countries’. The event will take place in the Downstairs Room at the SA building, 4pm-5.30 pm on Wednesday, March 2nd. Address: Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission 221 East and 52nd St.

The report is available here :ASTRA Youth


Methodologies for Estimating Abortion Incidence and Abortion-Related Morbidity: A Review. This publication is based on papers presented at the IUSSP Seminar on Measurement of abortion incidence, abortion-related morbidity and mortality, Paris, France, 7-9 November 2007. Individual articles or full publication can be accessed or downloaded for free. Edited by Susheela Singh, Lisa Remez and Alyssa Tartaglione.

More:Guttmacher Institute

Second trimester abortion law globally: actuality, trends and recommendations. Although the great majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester, a significant number are not carried out until the second trimester. This study provides data on the global incidence of second trimester abortions. Edited by Reed Boland.

Source:Medical Abortion Consortium

Presenting the upcoming State of the World’s Midwifery report. The health of women and their newborns took centre stage in global development discussions in 2010, when the United Nations Secretary-General launched the ‘Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health’. The report, which is the first of its kind, is intended to facilitate midwifery strengthening around the world.

For further information on the report, please contact coordinator, Vincent Fauveau: fauveau@unfpa.org

Repoliticizing sexual and reproductive health and rights. Report from the meeting held under the auspices of Reproductive Health Matters in 2010 to discuss growing concerns about the fragmentation of work in the field of SRHR and the absence of a collective critique of where it is heading.

Available here:Reproductive Health Matters

Medical Abortion aka abortion pill. Marge Berer’s, Reproductive Health Matters’ Editor’s, blog entry on recent events with medical abortion in Ireland: http://bererblog.wordpress.com/