A pro-choice protest On International Women’s Day in London.
A pro-choice protest On International Women’s Day in London. ‘It is time for women to be treated as autonomous adults capable of making their own decisions,’ writes Wendy Savage. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft

We congratulate Diana Johnston for introducing her bill (New bill to challenge UK’s Victorian-era abortion law, 14 March) and are delighted it was passed by 172 to 142 votes. As a 10-minute rule bill, it has no chance of becoming law, but it is important in starting the debate about whether, after 50 years, it is time to revisit the 1967 Abortion Act. It is time to treat abortion like any other medical procedure, and control it with regulation and the GMC. It is wrong that three women have been jailed or had a suspended sentence, and that doctors responding to women’s requests may face criminal prosecution. Many people (and even some gynaecologists) do not realise abortion is a criminal offence unless it conforms with the conditions set out in the Act. Up to 80% of people polled believe the woman should make the decision in consultation with her doctor and 90% of a random sample of gynaecologists surveyed in 2015 said that the woman should make the decision to end her pregnancy. It is time for women to be treated as autonomous adults capable of making their own decisions about continuing a pregnancy, a view that the some tabloid newspapers seem incapable of understanding.

Source: The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/women-are-capable-of-choosing-whether-to-continue-a-pregnancy

Wellington High School students protesting outside Wellington Hospital in support of women wishing to have abortions in 2014.

KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellington High School students protesting outside Wellington Hospital in support of women wishing to have abortions in 2014.

 EDITORIAL: Abortion law in New Zealand seems to be one of those areas where Government thinking is observably out of step with public opinion. Recent polling by Curia, carried out for the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, found majority public support for the legality of abortions in a range of situations. Support was as high as 77 per cent if a pregnant woman was likely to die without an abortion, down to 54 per cent if the woman cannot afford another child and 51 per cent if she simply does not want to be a mother.

These numbers reveal the existing law is archaic and farcical, and that most agree that abortion should be considered a health issue not a criminal one. Abortion is covered by laws that have not been updated for 40 years. They say that two consultants need to agree that the woman’s mental or physical health is at risk or the baby would be seriously disabled before an abortion can be approved.

In most cases, it is merely a rubber-stamping exercise. Of the 13,000 abortions that were performed in New Zealand in 2015, nearly all were approved on mental health grounds (in 2014, that covered 97 per cent of abortions). Does anyone believe that more than 12,000 New Zealand women risked severe mental health outcomes if their pregnancies went full-term?

Bill English and Paula Bennett hold different views on abortion, but his view will prevail for the time being.

CAMDERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Bill English and Paula Bennett hold different views on abortion, but his view will prevail for the time being.

 That said, abortions are sometimes declined. It was reported that 252 “not justified abortion” certificates were issued in 2016. It is a reminder that while our system appears to operate as abortion on demand as long as doctors agree to bend the rules, they still have the authority to deny abortions without giving reasons.

The fact that one in four New Zealand women have had an abortion suggests it has become mainstream, though it is a difficult personal decision that is rarely taken lightly and often at times of considerable distress. Some noted that even the language of the law reflects earlier, less enlightened times. Doctors are routinely referred to as “he” and the abhorrent term “subnormal” is used in a mental health context. This is what Abortions Supervisory Committee chair Dame Linda Holloway meant when she told Parliament last week that parts of the law seem “offensive” to us now. It also uses outdated medical terminology.

The committee’s appearance before the Justice and Electoral Select Committee put the otherwise dormant issue of abortion law under the spotlight. It made it political. For Opposition, there is the happy coincidence of having a conservative Catholic Prime Minister, Bill English, who refuses to back liberalisation and a Deputy Prime Minister and Women’s Affairs Minister, Paula Bennett, who has said she is “pro-choice” but is toeing the party line this time.

Act leader David Seymour identified that the current law is a “charade” from his party’s liberal perspective. But it is a charade we will keep playing for the time being. Despite such pressure, there is little political will for change and it is unlikely English and Bennett will be embarrassed into reversing their public positions on what remains a private and morally subjective area.

Source: Stuff

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/90539750/editorial-is-it-time-to-update-new-zealands-abortion-law

The abortion pill would be on hand at virtually every public college in California under legislation introduced Friday in the state Senate.

The bill’s inception comes amid renewed attempts to slash funding for Planned Parenthood, which would no longer receive Medicaid reimbursements under the Republican-backed American Health Care Act.

If the health care plan were passed in its current form, $174 million would be slashed from the budget of California’s Planned Parenthood clinics. Although Planned Parenthood is the largest single provider of abortions in the country, it does not use federal money to provide the procedure.

“If those cuts are made, then I do believe this bill takes on a heightened sense of urgency,” state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino (San Bernardino County), who put forth the bill, told The Chronicle. “Women in 2017 shouldn’t be fighting for access to their bodies.”

The American Health Care Act, a Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is making its way through the House legislative process. As it does, a somewhat surprising group is reportedly hoping the bill fails.

Leyva’s legislation — which doesn’t cover surgical abortions — would make the pregnancy-terminating pills available at all University of California, California State University and California Community College campuses that have a student health center that gets funding from the state.

The medication, two pills ingested orally, can be taken only within 10 weeks of a woman’s last period.

Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the medication is safe and effective. Since the Food and Drug Administration approved the pill 16 years ago, 3 million women have taken the abortion pill, she said. Of those, 19 died from complications related to the medication — a mortality rate lower than that of giving birth.

“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be readily available in student health centers,” Kneer said. “There’s no medical justification.”

The availability of the abortion service on campuses would be the first in the nation. Last year, the elected student leaders of UC Berkeley lobbied the administration to provide the abortion pill at the campus health center, but their demands never came to fruition. UC Berkeley spokespeople said they weren’t available to discuss the matter.

“Because our health center includes a pretty comprehensive amount of sexual and reproductive services, not providing abortions reinforces the idea that abortion is not a part of women’s health, when it absolutely is,” said Adiba Khan, 20, a student who pushed for the service to be offered on campus. “For undergrads and graduate students, abortion is part of their life. It’s normal and should be available as easily and cheaply as possible.”

Khan said friends of hers who took the abortion pills were initially met with financial and academic roadblocks. Those who got their health insurance through the campus first had to meet with a counselor before they could be referred to an outside provider — a potential obstacle for the time-sensitive medication — and often missed class or work to travel to an abortion provider off campus, she said.

Marandah Field-Elliot, a student senator who helped organize the campaign to get the abortion service on campus, said an added bonus if the bill passes the state Legislature would be that UC Berkeley wouldn’t be the sole object of antiabortion activists. Already this year, UC Berkeley’s progressivism put the campus in the crosshairs of President Trump’s tweets when violent protests forced an event featuring controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos to be canceled.

“This bill would be so amazing, because it would spread the impacts rather than putting a target right on Berkeley,” Field-Elliot said.

Source: SFGate

http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Bill-would-make-abortion-pill-available-at-state-11010665.php

The Women’s Centre used Google to target woman researching abortionsDADO RUVIC/REUTERS

Google has blocked an anti-abortion group from using advertisements on its search engine that encourage women to visit their rogue crisis pregnancy agency.

Last year The Times exposed how The Women’s Centre on Berkeley Street in Dublin was advising women that abortion caused breast cancer and could turn them into child abusers.

Despite claiming to be an objective source of information, The Women’s Centre is linked to The Good Counsel Network, an extreme Catholic group that has compared abortion to terrorism. The group paid Google so that its website, abortionadvice.ie, was the first or second result when a woman searched for information on how to access a legal abortion abroad. Women who call its “national helpline” are offered appointments at The Women’s Centre or one of the other clinics it claims to run across the country.

Google offers paid advertisements which can present a website as the first result under certain search terms. This week the company blocked The Women’s Centre from using its adverts because it had been found to be deceptive.

“We have a set of strict policies which govern what ads we do and do not allow on Google. We do not allow fraudulent or misrepresentative ads and when we discover ads that break our policies, we quickly take action,” a spokesman for Google said.

The site had specifically targeted women using Irish IP addresses who were entering search terms indicating that they were looking for information about how to access an abortion in the UK. Since the site’s removal from the top search results it has been replaced by a HSE website and the British Pregnancy Advisory service.

The Women’s Centre is facing closure after Simon Harris, the health minister, committed to pass legislation to regulate crisis pregnancy agencies that were offering misinformation. Mr Harris said that he was hoping to pass the law this summer.

Other anti-abortion groups and campaigners have also sought to use Google adverts to campaign ahead of a possible referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Over the course of the last meeting of the citizens assembly, a website alleging bias on the part of the forum paid to be the top search result.

Citizensassembly.info is a site registered through a proxy. On the site it is stated that it was set up by Josiah Burke, a business student from NUI Galway. Mr Burke is one of ten children in the Burke family in Castlebar. Members of the family are well-known as anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality campaigners. The family linked homosexuality to paedophilia during the marriage equality campaign, sparking a protest at the NUIG campus.

The website claims that the citizens’ assembly, which is considering the need to change Ireland’s abortion laws, is biased in favour of a repeal of the Eighth Amendment. At its last meeting, members of the assembly reacted angrily when Family and Life, an anti-abortion campaign group, used its presentation to claim that the assembly was biased and hearing evidence from “the abortion industry”. The 99 citizens had requested to hear from healthcare professionals who offered legal abortions to Irish women in the UK.

Family and Life has since sponsored its social media posts on sites like Facebook to claim that the assembly is biased.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, the assembly’s chair, has repeatedly defended the forum as being balanced and fair. At its next meeting in April the assembly members will ballot on what change, if any, should be made to Ireland’s constitutional near-ban on abortion. The assembly has considered leaving the Eighth Amendment as it is, amending it or replacing it with new legislation.

Source: The Times

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/google-blocks-adverts-for-anti-abortion-group-t3fgtcrgd

A Whole Woman’s Health abortion clinic in Texas is reopening four years after an unconstitutional law caused it to close. This is a great sign for the rebuilding of abortion access in Texas since a restrictive law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last summer.

House Bill 2 said clinics had to meet the requirements of an ambulatory surgical center and that providers had to have admitting privileges at hospitals.

These terms are very difficult for clinics to fulfill, and would involve construction for many clinics. After the law was put into effect, half of Texas’s abortion clinics were forced to shut down. The number of clinics in the state dropped from 41 to 19 from 2013 to 2016.

But Whole Woman’s Health fought the law, taking it to the Supreme Court. Last June, the Supreme Court ruled Texas’s law was unconstitutional.

This was a cause for celebration for Whole Woman’s Health and pro-choice women across the country.

The Supreme Court said the burdens on women clearly outweighed the health and safety benefits of the law.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a concurrence opinion, Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.’

Before the Supreme Court ruled, these clinic closures caused problems for women seeking abortions.

Many women had to travel further for abortions with local clinics closed — and Texas is a big state.
Meanwhile, because there were fewer clinics, the remaining ones were experiencing long wait times for procedures. Delaying an abortion by a few days is significant as the pregnancy moves along.

Even with a positive Supreme Court ruling, Whole Woman’s Health knew it would take time to rebuild their service.

Clinics can’t just reopen with a snap of the fingers. It takes time and money for space, for rehiring staff, for setting up the medications and materials.

Andrea Ferrigno, Vice President of Whole Woman’s Health, told Elite Daily last year before the decision, The damage that these laws have caused, it’s going to take years to repair. In a statement on Thursday, Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said she was committed to reopening the Austin clinic as soon as possible.

The Austin clinic was Whole Woman’s Health flagship clinic.

Abortion advocates are celebrating the reopening of the Austin Whole Woman’s Health clinic.

Greg Casar, a council member in Austin, said in a statement that “our community suffered a loss” when the clinic was forced to shut down. With the reopening of the Austin Whole Woman’s Health clinic, the residents of North Austin and beyond will have expanded access to safe, legal abortion care right here in our community. Stephanie Toti, the attorney who argued for Whole Woman’s Health in front of the Supreme Court, said, Today’s clinic reopening not only improves health care access for millions of Texas women, it shows the power of legal advocacy to move us toward a more just world.

This is great news for women in Texas, as it shows the clinics are recovering from the damage of the unconstitutional HB 2. With one more clinic open, the others will have less of a burden and more clients will be able to get responsible care.

Source: Elite Daily

http://elitedaily.com/news/politics/texas-abortion-clinic-reopening/1827206/?utm_campaign=anshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=applenews

Women’s Rights Are Under Attack Worldwide, Warns U.N. Chief
Guterres pointed to extremists subjugating women and governments curtailing women’s freedoms and rolling back laws against domestic violence
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(UNITED NATIONS) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that women are suffering “new assaults on their safety and dignity” around the world, pointing to extremists subjugating women and governments curtailing women’s freedoms and rolling back laws against domestic violence.

He told the opening session of the Commission on the Status of Women that educating and empowering women will unleash their potential and prevent “challenges that arise from violent extremism, human rights violations, xenophobia and other threats.”

While Guterres didn’t name any countries or groups, his message was clearly aimed at the Islamic State extremist group which sells women and girls as sex slaves. It also appeared directed at U.S. President Donald Trump’s expansion of a ban on federal aid to international organizations that provide abortions or abortion information — and to Russia for new legislation decriminalizing some forms of domestic violence.

The U.N. chief said men still dominate in every country of the world and male chauvinism blocks women from getting ahead.

“Our world needs more women leaders,” Guterres said. “And our world needs more men standing up for gender equality.”

The executive director of U.N. Women, the United Nations agency promoting women’s rights, told the commission that changing discriminatory laws in over 150 countries “could affect more than three billion women and girls in the world.” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka also said that “advancing women’s equality in total could bring a potential boost of 28 trillion U.S. dollars to global annual GDP by 2025.”

But, she added in an echo of Guterres, while there has been some progress toward gender equality, gains have eroded and “the much needed positive developments are not happening fast enough.”

“With the global pay gap at an average of 23%, women are clearly earning consistently less than men,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

“Women regard this as daylight robbery,” she said. “Each year they work three months more than men for equivalent pay.”

She said over half of all women workers around the world — and up to 90% in some countries — are informally employed, such as low-cost farm workers, street food vendors and care workers, almost all without legal or social protection. In India alone, this sector accounts for 190 million women, she said.

“They are the under-the-radar and under-valued cogs in the bigger wheels of the formal economy,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

At an event Monday night on women’s economic empowerment, the theme of this year’s commission meeting, which ends March 24, UN Women and the International Labor Organization announced a group of equal pay “champions” to mobilize global action to achieve equal pay for work of equal value.

Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette, one of the champions, said last year that women were at “breaking point” when it comes to equal pay and this year she said it is “worse than breaking point.”

“Women have waited since the beginning of time to be treated equally,” she said. “I think the time has come now when we can’t wait any more.”

Retired American soccer star Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and another equal pay champion, said there is definitely a gender pay gap in professional sports, but “it’s about every single industry in every single country.”

“It’s so near and dear to my heart,” she said, “because since retiring I’ve noticed that looking across the aisle, the Kobi Bryants, the Peyton Mannings, they’re having a much different conversation with themselves in retirement than I am.”

“I have to worry about paying my bills — and enough finally has to be enough,” Wambach said.

Iceland co-sponsored the event and Minister of Social Affairs and Equality Thorsteinn Viglundsson said he expects the country to be the first in the world to eliminate the gender pay gap by its target of 2022.

“We are really turning the table and saying to management and the institutions, you bear the responsibility, it is your task to make sure the gender pay gap is eliminated,” he said. “And the Equal Pay Standard that we are implementing is a perfect tool for it.”

Source: Yahoo

https://www.yahoo.com/news/women-rights-under-attack-worldwide-015129106.html

Offences Against the Person Act 1861 makes a woman’s decision to terminate her own pregnancy punishable by life in prison

Diana Johnson
The ten-minute rule bill was introduced by the Labour MP for Hull North, Diana Johnson. Photograph: Josh Kearns/Rex

MPs have won the right to introduce a bill to parliament which would decriminalise abortion for the first time by repealing a law that dates back to Victorian times.

A ten-minute rule bill introduced by Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Hull North, sought permission of the House to change two sections of a law passed in 1861, before women had the vote. It succeeded by 170 votes to 142, a margin of 32.

As the law stands, doing so is technically punishable by life imprisonment under sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act – both for the woman and for anyone, including a doctor, who helps her.

“This is the harshest criminal penalty of any country in Europe, underpinned by a Victorian criminal law passed before women had the right to vote, let alone sit in this place,” Johnson told MPs.

Poland, a traditional Catholic country, does not criminalise women for having an abortion, she said. In the United States, when the current president suggested women should be criminalised, he was forced to backtrack, she added.

Abortion is legal in England and Wales in restricted circumstances, which were laid down in the 1967 Abortion Act introduced by the then Liberal MP David Steel to stop women dying in large numbers as a result of backstreet abortions.

The 1967 legislation allows a termination before 12 weeks with the approval of two doctors and in the interests of the woman’s health. In rare circumstances, including foetal abnormality, later abortions are permitted.

The new bill will be brought forward by a cross-party group of MPs.

Johnson said in the debate that abolishing criminality need not change the current restrictions, which can be enshrined in regulations. The change in the law would not increase the number of late abortions. “It will not lead to a free for all,” she said.

The pills that bring about early abortion, before 12 weeks, are prescription only, so their use is governed by the Human Medicines Regulations 2012. It would not be any easier for couples to seek abortion for sex-selection purposes. And, she added, the current law did nothing about people who tried to coerce women into having a termination.

Abortion is widely available under the law, she argued, and the wider availability of the abortion pills online “should motivate greater concern for women’s health and make us wary of greater liberalisation of the law”. Removing the criminal sanction “would embolden men to pressure women into abortions they do not wish to have”. Ensuring that the woman must have the consent of two doctors meant that she would have the chance to speak to somebody who could help her, Caulfield said.

She said the bill was being proposed “at a time when the UK abortion industry is knee-deep in allegations of unsafe and unethical practices”, citing alleged failures including the Care Quality Commission investigation into the Marie Stopes clinics.

Source: The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/13/mps-win-right-to-challenge-victorian-law-criminalising-abortion