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7-dec

Seven years after Victoria decriminalised abortion, there are fears publicly funded services have deteriorated across the state, causing women to travel long distances for private care that can cost hundreds of dollars. There are also concerns about a shortage of doctors willing to carry out the procedure.

Leading women’s health researcher Louise Keogh is urging the Victorian government to make abortion services mandatory at some hospitals, after interviews with 19 abortion workers revealed public services may have shrunk since law reform, and that there is an ageing workforce not being replaced.

Associate Professor Keogh, from Melbourne University, said most of the research participants, who included doctors, nurses and clinic managers, were concerned about reduced access to surgical abortion, and abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. They were also worried that some hospitals were opting out of the service altogether.

The state government’s Better Health website lists only three public hospital abortion services and they are all in Melbourne.

“There was a strong consensus that there was ‘unfinished business’ in the provision of abortion services,” Professor Keogh wrote with others in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care.

“Law reform, while positive, has failed to address a number of significant issues in abortion service, and may have even resulted in a ‘lull’ in action.”

The chief executive of the Royal Women’s Hospital, Sue Matthews, said her staff were not able to meet demand for abortions and that they were working with other regional services to increase their capacity.

“The level of demand for the Women’s services exceeds what we can deliver, and as such, we prioritise our services for women from disadvantaged and low socio-economic backgrounds,” she said.

“The Women’s supports the right for all women to access reproductive services and supports a state-wide approach to abortion service provision to allow women across the state to have access to timely services that are provided as close to home as reasonably possible.”

Writing in the journal, Professor Keogh said her research highlighted the need for law reform to be followed by “policy and practice changes that enforce the intent of the law and ensure the delivery of the services the community needs”.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the government was developing a statewide sexual and reproductive health strategy to improve Victorian women’s access to reproductive health services.

“This work is supported by a $6.6 million investment in this year’s budget. We also established Victoria’s first ever safe access zones to ensure women can safely and confidentially access abortion services without being subject to verbal and psychological abuse,” the spokesperson said.

In 2008, abortion was decriminalised, so that women could have one up to 24 weeks for any reason. After 24 weeks, two doctors need to agree based on the woman’s medical circumstances and her current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.

A health professional who has a conscientious objection to providing abortion is not required to provide it but must refer any woman seeking information about it to a health practitioner who does not object.

http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/4340144/fears-for-abortion-services-seven-years-after-victorian-law-reform/?cs=7

Source: The Courier AU

6-dec

Website domain name for Women’s Life Centre in Albury registered to the Wagga Wagga Catholic diocese

The Catholic church has denied any link to a New South Wales pregnancy centre accused of deceptively pushing an anti-abortion agenda to women, despite records showing the local diocese set up its website.

The Women’s Life Centre has operated for several years in Albury, NSW, marketing itself as a service that helps “any woman facing an unplanned pregnancy or worried that they may be pregnant”.

The centre is currently crowdfunding to buy an ultrasound device and says it offers pregnancy testing, counselling, resources on pregnancy and abortion, future planning and abortion grief counselling.

The centre is staffed by pro-life volunteers and staff but its website makes no mention of its anti-abortion stance, nor does its shopfront, which advertises “free pregnancy help” and “free pregnancy testing”.

The website domain name for the clinic is registered to the Wagga Wagga Catholic diocese, which covers Albury.

It also receives funding support from a café next door, named Esencia, which is owned by the church, according to the Australian Business Register and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission database.

A spokesman for the Wagga Wagga diocese said he did not believe there was any link between the church and the pregnancy centre. He said there may have been “technical assistance” to help the centre set up its website but nothing further.

Staff at the centre say they are openly pro-life and that there is no deception involved.

A volunteer, Myra Hogan, told Guardian Australia that women who came to the centre for help would be immediately aware of its pro-life stance.

“From my point of view, yes 100%,” Hogan said. “I feel like we’re very upfront and honest … That’s why I approached them, because that’s my own personal belief. I’m very pro-life.”

But senior Albury obstetrician and gynaecologist Pieter Mourik has accused the centre of covertly pushing an anti-abortion agenda.

“This [women’s life centre] is a vile deception of vulnerable women who have an unplanned pregnancy,” he said. “No member of this clinic would ever agree with a woman who wants or medically needs a termination but will use any tactic to dissuade them every time.”

The US has seen thousands of “crisis pregnancy centres” set up across the country, which purport to offer free medical advice but actually attempt to discourage abortion and the use of contraceptives.

The US centres have been accused of lying to women, overstating the health impacts of abortions and using misleading films and images to frighten those seeking help.

In France, MPs last week voted to approve a plan to outlaw abortion information websites that masquerade as neutral, official services with freephone helpline numbers but promote anti-abortion propaganda and pressure women not to terminate pregnancies.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/06/catholic-church-denies-link-to-pregnancy-centre-accused-of-covert-anti-abortion-agenda

Source: The Guardian

5-dec

Katherine Zappone has suggested she is in favour of replacing the Eighth Amendment with a “radical” plan to enshrine a woman’s right to choose in the constitution.

The minister for children and youth affairs said she was concerned that a foetus could still have constitutional rights that would block an abortion, even after a repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

The government is seeking to appeal against a High Court ruling from July which suggested that the constitutional rights of unborn children extend beyond the right to life. The court suggested that a constitutional reference to the state’s duty to protect “all children” could also refer to a foetus. The ruling has led to suggestions that even if the Eighth Amendment was repealed, a foetus would still be entitled to some rights under the Irish constitution.

The judgment was made in the case of a Nigerian man who was facing deportation. The man and his partner, who was pregnant at the time, secured an injunction on his deportation after the court ruled that the couple’s unborn baby was also entitled to rights and a legal position.

Speaking at the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s Femfest event for young women on Friday, Ms Zapppone said: “We don’t want anything in our constitution that has to do with abortion. But we might want to put something in there that says something about women’s right to their health, to their autonomy and to their self-determination.

“Talk about radical. Because as you probably know, There are currently senior counsel and legal folks who are arguing on both sides of this that if we got rid of [the Eighth Amendment] there are still implicit constitutional rights that could block women’s access to abortion.”

She added that her instinct was to support taking all reference to terminating pregnancies out of the constitution and legalising access to abortion through legislation but that a new amendment should be considered.

Ms Zappone was forced to defend her position after she was heavily criticised by pro-choice campaigners for supporting Enda Kenny’s plans to consider abortion through a citizens’ assembly rather than the Oireachtas. Earlier this year the first-time independent TD voted with the government against a bill which would have legalised abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, which she had supported when she was an independent senator. She also voted against an Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit bill calling for a referendum in October.

Ms Zappone said that she did not believe that a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment would win if it was held ahead of the citizens’ assembly completing its work. The assembly, led by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, met on November 26 to begin examining whether the constitutional ban on abortion needs to be repealed and will also meet over three more weekends in January, February and March. At the end of the fourth weekend, assembly members will vote on what their recommendations to the Oireachtas will be.

If the assembly decides to recommend a referendum, it could recommend replacing the Eighth Amendment with another addition to the constitution, or granting legal access to abortion in specific circumstances through legislation alone.

Various opinion polls have suggested that most people support legal access to abortion on grounds of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

Ms Zappone said that she did not want victims of sexual crime to have to go through an arduous process to access an abortion. “I would be in favour of legislation that doesn’t name rape and incest or circumstances or conditions. Because they’d have to prove it. We know what women now have to go through to demonstrate or prove that they were raped, we don’t need that in our legislation,” she said.

The Independent Alliance ministers have threatened government stability twice over the issue of abortion by demanding a free vote on two bills. In a thinly veiled reference to Shane Ross, John Halligan and Finian McGrath, Ms Zappone said she had been the only one to raise the issue of the Eighth Amendment during government formation talks. “Many of my colleagues who were around the table weren’t that keen, but they had to agree to it because I said I wouldn’t stay if they wouldn’t agree to at least that,” she said.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/ireland/abortion-rights-could-be-put-in-constitution-n2dhp5m58

Source: The Times UK

A short while ago, Doctor Leroy Carhart announced that he would no longer be performing late term abortions at a facility in Germantown, Maryland.  He is now 75 so it’s probably a good move for him to start cutting back.  Still, I want to take a moment to thank Lee for his service to women across the country.

Lee is one of the softest spoken people I have ever met.  Indeed, I always felt like I had to lean to him to hear what he was saying.  Despite his soft spoken nature, his physical presence was a bit intimidating as he was about six feet tall and admittedly overweight.  To add to his interesting persona, he has a high nasal voice that makes it sound like he is whining all the time.

I met Lee and his wife Mary in the 1990s when I became the Executive Director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.  Like his good friend, George Tiller, Lee worked quietly (or as quietly as the anti-abortion folks would let him) in a modest building in Bellevue, Nebraska.  Even back then he was performing abortions up to 24 weeks.  I never really asked him if he was doing third trimester abortions and never confirmed as much.

At our first meeting, we had lunch and at one point he casually told me how his barn had burnt down in a suspicious fire and he lost several horses.  He was very stoic about it and in fact he never said he could prove the anti-abortion folks did it but his silence on the matter told me he was at least very suspicious as he had been the target of many massive protests over the years.

He regularly attended our conventions and slowly started to come out of his shell.  He understood the need for abortion doctors to speak up and destigmatize the abortion procedure and we were happy when he started to climb on that bandwagon. Then, years later, his good friend, Doctor George Tiller was assassinated while attending his church Wichita.

By that time, I had left NCAP but I immediately called Lee to let him know I was thinking about him.  I could hear him choking up when he said that he was going to “take over for George.”  When I asked what he meant, he said he was going to take over his third trimester abortion practice.  I privately applauded him for his dedication but a few days later I was horrified when I saw Lee on CNN telling the entire world that he was taking over for George!  I called him immediately and said “Lee, you have got to shut up or else you’ll be next.”   He politely listened but disagreed.

A few weeks later, I saw him at a memorial service in Washington DC for Doctor Tiller.  Lee was surrounded by federal marshals and I had to get permission to see him.  When I went into the little anteroom, we gave each other a big hug and I teared up.  After a few minutes I said “Lee, don’t go on TV anymore, just shut up and help women.”   He smiled and said “you know, you were the one who kept telling me I had to speak up in the first place.”  I said that I understood but it was different now.  The presence of the federal marshals was evidence that he was a potential target, that some nut ball was out there thinking he would take out the next late term abortion doctor.  He politely ignored me and never went underground as I suggested.

Then a short while later, I learned he was performing late abortions in Maryland – by reading about it in an interview he gave to the friggin Washington Post!    Several days later, I drove up to the clinic, which was surrounded by hundreds of protestors smelling blood.  Amidst the chaos outside, Lee sat calmly in his office looking at some websites as if nothing was going on outside.  We had a pleasant meeting and I have not seen or heard from him until I read he was leaving Reproductive Health Services in Germantown, MD.

Thanks, Lee.

4-dec

EVEN DONALD TRUMP’S most ardent supporters would be at pains to describe his career swap as a seamless one.

After all, while this month’s victory saw him become the sixth US President to attain the role as their first public office, that number tells only half the story. Of those who preceded him on that score, three had esteemed military résumés, and the other two were long-time cabinet secretaries.

Trump’s fortune can’t buy that kind of experience

And yet, rather than a hill to die on, it was upon that very inexperience that the 70-year-old built his church. Unsullied by the careerism of party politics, his followers have lauded his aptitude to speak freely without fear of reproach.

Unfiltered frankness is undoubtedly an admirable character trait, but the fact that it could just as easily be boasted by a puckish toddler is hardly a ringing endorsement of one’s presidential credentials.

Then again, it would be remiss to suggest that Trump’s was the first campaign to target heart over head.

Cults of personality 

One need look no further than the tidal wave which swept Barack Obama into office for confirmation of that. But whereas Obama’s candidacy may have appeared at least superficially populist, it was built on unwavering ideals.

Like Kennedy and Reagan before him, he used charisma to cause change. Publicity was a means to an end.

For Donald Trump, publicity is the end

His success has centered on one emptily bombastic soundbite after another, his bumper-sticker policies catering tragically well to the Snapchat attention span of modern media.

Trump’s very lack of conservatism belied his status as this year’s Republican candidate, with even his own party balking at his liberal positions on matters such as gun control. And yet, if concerns about the President-elect can best be boiled down to fear of the unknown, those swirling around his closest ally amount to quite the opposite.

Mike Pence is the GOP’s answer to Ronseal, after all, his steadfastness a tangible yin to Trump’s yang. If nothing else, that courage of conviction promises to keep Trump’s increasingly erratic train on the track, but at what cost?

Pence is none the richer

Vice President-elect Mike P

On the face of it, Pence’s primitive views concerning climate change and same-sex marriage appear to tally more readily with the Westboro Baptist Church than much of the US electorate. Given the current climate on this side of the Atlantic, however, it’s his regressive stance on abortion which will likely have caught the Irish eye.

Pence has been among the brashest opponents to America’s regulation of the issue, after all, dubbing the Roe vs Wade ruling “the Supreme Court’s worst since Dred Scott.” During his time as Governor of Indiana, he endeavoured to redress that perceived imbalance, invoking some of America’s most restrictive counter-legislation.

Just 7% of Indiana counties have been left with direct access to an abortion clinic following his tenure in the Midwest, compared to a rate of 95% in states such as California.

‘I’m pro-life’

Logistics surrounding the medical procedure itself were also stymied under his watch. Pence became the first governor to place a blanket-ban on abortions which cited a foetus’ race, sex or disability.

“I’m pro-life and don’t apologise for it,” affirmed the would-be VP on the campaign trail. “I signed that legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families. In time, we’ll see Roe v Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

That Pence’s pro-life politicking is rooted in his Christianity is hardly a foreign concept to those with an Irish sensibility. A simple Google search of my own namesake should serve as proof enough of that that.

Yesterday’s men decide women’s futures

Disconcerting though it may be, the narrative of 2016 remains heavily shaped by tenets from a bygone age and the rights of tomorrow’s women continue to be abridged by the whims of yesterday’s men.

Even in a society where a White House without a Y chromosome remains elusive, calls for women to be the protagonists in the discourse surrounding their own human rights hardly seem unreasonable.

America’s decision to plump for a Pence-Trump ticket has gone some way to ensuring those calls fall on deaf ears for some time yet. It is incumbent on the rest of the world to shout a little louder.

http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/do-men-control-womens-reproductive-rights-3109478-Nov2016/

Source: The Journal

 

Amanda Mellet was told the child she was carrying would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

3-dec-2

THE GOVERNMENT HAS offered a woman €30,000 in compensation because she was forced to travel abroad to have an abortion.

Amanda Mellet was 21 weeks pregnant in 2011 when she was told the foetus had congenital defects meaning it would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

Mellet chose to travel to the UK to have a termination, staying there for only 12 hours because that was all she could afford.

In June, the UN’s Human Rights Commission ruled that Ireland had subjected Mellet to “discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” because of its laws against abortion.

It found that the State was obliged to provide compensation to Mellet, who has spoken previously about the “heartbreaking” loss she felt losing the child she named Aoife.

Source: SineadOCarrollTJ/YouTube

Minister for Health Simon Harris met with Mellet and her husband yesterday evening to outline Ireland’s response to the UN ruling.

Harris has confirmed today that the State has offered her “an ex gratia sum of €30,000″.

An ex gratia payment describes a payment made that is not legally obligated.

Harris also said that he will direct the HSE to ensure that Mellet has access to “all appropriate psychological services.”

The UN had also told Ireland it was obliged to provide Mellet with psychological treatment.

Ireland has until next Tuesday to respond to the UN committee and detail the steps it intends to take to ensure it is complaint under human rights law.

In his statement, Harris says that Ireland’s response to the committee will outline the constitutional protection of the unborn under Irish law and the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly to consider whether this should be changed.

The Health Minister previously outlined his view that his is in favour of a referendum so that people who have never voted on the Eighth Amendment have an opportunity to do so.

The minister also said that he found Mellet’s particular case “deeply upsetting”.

Health Minister Simon Harris met with Amanda Mellet and her husband yesterday evening.

In a statement this afternoon, Mellet said that the minister offered her a personal apology and that she is “immensely grateful”:

I am immensely grateful to Minister Harris for his personal apology to me last night and offer of compensation and counselling. It goes a long way towards closure for what was the most painful chapter of my life.I am hopeful that ensuring the legal change outlined by the UN Committee will now be the government’s next step

“I personally will not feel able to move on while knowing that other women continue to have to leave this country to access reproductive health services,” she added.

Heartened

Amnesty International has welcomed the offer made to Mellet saying that it showed the government “accepted the UN committee’s findings”.

, Leah Hoctor, Centre for Reproductive Rights and Katrine Thomasen, legal

“This response acknowledges the harm caused to women by the current law,”said Amnesty International’s Colm O’Gorman.

The government must now comply with the committee’s ruling that Ireland reform its laws to ensure that no woman or girl will ever face similar human rights violations.

“We have tentatively welcomed the Citizens’ Assembly process,” he added.

The Centre for Reproductive Rights has represented Mellet as part of her case and has described the government’s offer as “a symbolic step”.

“The government’s promise of compensation to Ms Mellet is a hugely important and symbolic step towards recognising the pain she suffered,” said Europe director at the centre Leah Hoctor.

“Women’s health and well-being are put in jeopardy when they have to travel to another country for abortion services,” she added.

Hoctor has also said that the government must “repair the wrongs” Hoctor experienced by “ensuring effective law reform takes place”.

TFMR Ireland, a group that works with people bereaved by fatal foetal anomalies, has welcomed Harris’ apology and compensation offer but criticised the timeframe being set aside to consider to recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly.

“There is no appreciation of the urgency with which this solution is required by all of the women and their families who continue to suffer these tragedies,” said TMFR Ireland’s Gerry Edwards.

http://www.thejournal.ie/amanda-mellet-compensation-3111497-Nov2016/

Source: The Journal

2-dec

Government seeking to criminalise sites that pose as neutral sources of information but promote anti-abortion propaganda

The French National Assembly has approved a plan to outlaw abortioninformation websites that masquerade as neutral, official services with freephone helpline numbers but promote anti-abortion propaganda and pressure women not to terminate pregnancies.

The Socialist government’s proposal seeks to criminalise any websites that deliberately mislead, intimidate or “exert psychological or moral pressure” on a woman seeking information about terminating a pregnancy, with punishment of up to two years in prison and a €30,000 fine.

It will now need to pass through the French senate.

The issue has sparked a row in recent days, with a Catholic archbishop writing to François Hollande, the president, warning of a threat to freedom of expression. MPs debating the bill heckled each other and complained of vicious insults in committee hearings.

France legalised abortion more than 40 years ago and already has a law that makes it a criminal offence to intimate or pressure a woman in order to stop her terminating a pregnancy. This law was initially aimed at anti-abortion protesters in the 1980s who tried to physically obstruct women from accessing clinics or advice centres, and was later extended to anyone exerting moral or psychological pressure on women.

The government now wants to extend the law further to include websites, claiming that the anti-abortion battle that used to take place outside clinics has now moved online.

A first attempt to pass the new law was blocked by the senate earlier this year.

On Thursday the Socialist women’s minister, Laurence Rossignol, told parliament that the government was not seeking to clamp down on anti-abortion opinion in general, but on sites that she said deliberately hid their true nature and tried to manipulate women with an “insidious” pressure.

“Everyone is free to affirm their hostility to abortion online or anywhere else, but on condition of doing it in all honesty, because freedom of expression can’t be confused with manipulating people,” she told MPs. “Thirty years ago, campaigners chained themselves to the gates of family planning clinics or operating tables to stop women accessing terminations. Today the next generation continues this battle online.”

She said anti-abortion groups “now act in a masked way, hidden behind platforms that appear neutral and objective and which copy and compete with official government information sites”, thus “deliberately seeking to trick women”.

She said these sites often had helplines run by “anti-choice activists with no training who want to make women feel guilty and discourage them from seeking an abortion.”

Rightwing opposition MPs firmly opposed the bill. Dominique Tian, a Republican MP, said there was a “very heavy atmosphere in parliament” and accused the government of “attacking freedom of expression”.

He said the government’s proposals were “dangerous for democracy and probably anti-constitutional”, and his party would do all it could to block them.

Last week Georges Pontier, the archbishop of Marseille and head of the French bishops’ conference, warned Hollande that the plans posed a threat to freedom of expression and “freedom of conscience”, and represented “a very serious attack on the principles of democracy”. Another bishop said the government was trying to act as “thought police”.

The issue of abortion also arose during the right’s primary race to chose its presidential candidate. François Fillon, who on Sunday won the Republican party’s nomination and is now favourite to win the presidency next year, had said earlier this year that because of his personal Christian faith he could not “approve abortion”. During his nomination campaign, however, he stressed he would never make any changes to French abortion law.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/01/french-mps-debate-plan-to-ban-abortion-websites-that-intimidate-women

Source: The Guardian