The Mexico City Policy or ‘Global Gag Rule’ by Marie Stopes International

Festival of Choice 2017

*reposted from Marie Stopes International website – read the full post here*

The Mexico City Policy: A world without choice

Millions of women in the developing world are likely to lose access to modern contraception, following the re-introduction of a Republican policy that blocks US Government funding to non-US organisations that perform abortion with their own funding. This will negatively impact not just women’s health and their opportunities for the future, but the longer-term economic prospects and stability of the world’s poorest countries.

The Mexico City Policy (sometimes called the Global Gag Rule) will prevent USAID from partnering with organisations that deliver comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, often in places where no other services exist. This decision will not only deprive women of their right to have children by choice, not chance, but in many cases their access to primary healthcare.

What is the Mexico City Policy?

The Mexico City Policy is a US Executive Order that means any international organisation that provides or promotes abortion services – regardless of how those services are funded – is prohibited from receiving US Government funding.

The Mexico City Policy was first enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984. Since then, successive presidents have alternatively rescinded and re-enacted the policy. In January 2017, the incoming Republican administration re-enacted the Mexico City Policy.

The scale of the issue

Since 2009, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has made a significant investment in projects that expand access to voluntary contraception for women and girls in developing countries. Currently, USAID is the world’s largest bilateral donor in family planning, investing approximately $620 million a year in family planning services.

There are long-standing legislative restrictions in place to ensure that USAID does not ever fund abortion services. However, before the Mexico City Policy was re-enacted, USAID was able to fund family planning programmes with organisations like Marie Stopes International, which provide safe abortion services using funding from other donors. It is these organisations that will be affected by the policy.

Through our partnership with USAID, Marie Stopes International has been able to provide voluntary contraceptive services to millions of poor and disadvantaged women, girls and communities across Africa and Asia. We estimate that if USAID funding continued to support family planning services delivered to our clients, we would reach approximately 1.5 million women and girls annually, preventing an estimated 1.6 million unintended pregnancies, averting 530,000 abortions (505,000 of them unsafe), and averting 5,265 maternal deaths each year.

Read the rest of the post on Marie Stopes International website!

*reposted from Marie Stopes International website – read the full post here*

Festival of Choice 2017 excited to host the play ‘Mission Abort’

Festival of Choice 2017

Mission Abort by Therese Ramstedt

Written and performed by Therese Ramstedt 
Directed by Claire Stone
Produced by Courtenay Johnson

“Masterfully executed, Mission Abort tackles the taboo around abortion and makes the important point that it’s an issue that society should no longer be ashamed to address.” – Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, ★★★★

Pain! Shame! Confusion! Or… empowering freedom and a massive relief? 

Strong opinions on abortion legislation are voiced on a daily basis; Mission Abort challenges taboos by exploring a woman’s perspective on the actual experience – from discovering she is pregnant, to making the decision, following it through and getting on with life afterwards. Described by The Scotsman as “an honest and emotional journey which is necessarily bittersweet, this explosive one-woman play invites the audience along for a laugh-cry rollercoaster ride – asking the big question: how can a choice that is so right be so hard?

Following its acclaimed world premiere at the 70th Edinburgh Fringe Festival at Gilded Balloon’s Rose Theatre (2-28 August), Mission Abort returns to London for a special performance at the Festival of Choice 2017. 

Reviews from Edinburgh Fringe 2017

“Ramstedt’s performance is empowering in its complete faith in a woman’s right to choose, but it also effectively highlights the sad reality of abortion shaming in society […] Masterfully executed, Mission Abort tackles the taboo around abortion and makes the important point that it’s an issue that society should no longer be ashamed to address”|★★★★ Edinburgh Festivals Magazine

“…a very mature, honest, human take on the still largely taboo topic of abortion […] In equal measure tragic and humorous, Ramstedt lands a beautiful, powerful performance […] the script deftly tackles the question of contraception being a woman’s responsibility, the issues with free counselling, and the wider lack of discussion on the topic.”
★★★★ Fringe Guru

“Mission Abort is a courageous and deeply moving show […] Therese is no holding back in this production, and the stark portrayal of the experience makes it a poignant and meaningful show […] ”Overall, it was brilliantly acted and incredibly emotive.”
★★★★ Voice Magazine

“This is a skilful production that successfully imparts to its spectators the importance of discussing abortion, and argues that it is still an act not fully understood in today’s society […] Impressively, ‘Mission Abort’ navigates the important divide between the personal and the political”
★★★★ Ed Fringe Review 

***E.g. please note, for The Festival of Choice we are presenting a stripped back performance of Mission Abort ***

Words of Choice produces plays Reproductive Freedom is What We Want

Festival of Choice 2017

Words of Choice: Up the Creativity

Arts in Support of Reproductive Freedom, Health, Rights and Justice!

Reproductive Freedom is What We Want, a 30-minute collections of short theater pieces about reproductive health and rights, can now be accessed on SoundCloud.

The selections can be played from beginning to end, or individually, and can be accessed on SoundCloud, or from the links below.

The theater pieces feature performers Crista Marie Jackson, Julissa Roman and Claudia Schneider, under the direction of Francesca Mantani Arkus.

The original recording of the dramatic works was done by Words of Choice in collaboration with the International Women’s Artists Salon (IWAS), and its online radio program on the City World Radio Network. Heidi Russell is the founder of IWAS. Cindy Cooper of Words of Choice curated the selections.

The overall collection of nine works — poetry, comedy, short plays, spoken word, thought pieces — by a diverse group of writers can be played beginning to end on SoundCloud (embedded below)

Or the individual selections can be accessed on their own. They are:

1-“Incantation” by June Jordan — performed by Claudia Schneider, Crista Marie Jackson, and Julissa Roman.

2-“She Said: before 1973” (excerpted) by Judith Arcana, — performed by Julissa Roman, Claudia Schneider and Crista Marie Jackson.

3-“Nobody” (excerpted) by Esosa Edosomwan — performed by Crista Marie Jackson.
4-Fine Line,” from the Feminist Women’s Health Center — performed by Julissa Roman.

5-“You’re On Your Own” (a satire)by Michael David Quinn — performed by Crista Marie Jackson, Claudia Schneider and Julissa Roman.

6-“Parallel Lives” by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, intro by Angela Bonavoglia from “The Choices We Made” — performed by Claudia Schneider and Crista Marie Jackson.

7-“Siege” by Dr. Susan Wicklund, adapted from “This Common Secret” — performed by Claudia Schneider

8-“Laws I Want” by Cindy Cooper and Words of Choice, hat-tip to Charlotte Taft — performed by Julissa Roman, Claudia Schneider and Crista Marie Jackson.

9-“Why I March” by Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondich, Executive Director of Women’s for a change (Wfac)in Cameroon — performed by Crista Marie Jackson, Julissa Roman and Claudia Schneider.

Special thanks to Jeremy Rishe for sound editing and creating SoundCloud versions of the radio performance.

Read the blog here:

Visit the Words of Choice blog here:

United together with women and girls in El Salvador

Festival of Choice 2014

International activists gathered on 25 September in a show of solidarity as Amnesty launched its new report on the terrifying impact of El Salvador’s total abortion ban.

“There’s a saying in El Salvador,” said Vicki Knox, Co-Director of the Central American Women’s Network (CAWN). “The rich abort, the poor bleed.”

And with that, everyone in the room understood the deep disadvantages that women and girls from poor backgrounds in El Salvador must face when it comes to making decisions about having sex or having children.

Abortion is banned in all cases in El Salvador. It doesn’t matter if you’re pregnant as a result of being raped, if your life is at risk, or if the foetus is not going to survive: abortion is always a crime in El Salvador.

This injustice – this scandal – is what brought us to Amnesty’s international headquarters in London last night. Whether Amnesty staff, like me, or activists from CAWN or My Belly is Mine, we were there to show our solidarity with the thousands of women and girls in El Salvador who are denied the right to control their own lives and fates by a law that has no place in the modern world.

As Vicki and Amnesty’s Guadalupe Marengo spoke about the harrowing cases of “Las 17” – 17 women who have been jailed for having abortions or miscarriages and other pregnancy-related “offences” – the insidious impact of the ban grew ever clearer.

Many of their cases are included in Amnesty’s reportOn the brink of death: Violence against women and the abortion ban in El Salvador.

Read the rest of Amnesty’s blog post here

Salvadoran women imprisoned for pregnancy complications

Festival of Choice 2014

LAs17Hundreds of women are incarcerated across the world for having suffered miscarriages, stillbirths, and other obstetrical complications without medical attention. Many of them live in El Salvador, where they usually live in poverty and marginalisation. Some have been sentenced to decades behind bars.

Central America is notorious for anti-abortion punishment, with El Salvador being one of the countries most actively reinforcing the criminalisation of abortion. Central America Women’s Network’s (CAWN) partner in El Salvador, the Asociación Ciudadana (Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion) has launched the “We are all the 17” campaign.

This campaign is building global backing to demand pardons for 17 women, all from deprived backgrounds, who have been imprisoned for the “crime” of pregnancy complications.

The “We are all the 17” campaign appeals for solidarity from people who share the women’s bid to regain their freedom, return to their families and rebuild their lives.

Between 2000 and 2011, 129 women were prosecuted for abortion or aggravated homicide (related to the pregnancy product). This figure however represents a small percentage of the total of women who undergo an unsafe abortion in El Salvador, estimated to be 35,088.60 per year.

The majority are poor and young, with 84,5% of women accused under the draconian anti-abortion law under 30 years old. Only a fourth of the prosecuted women attended high school or university, and nearly 80% have no income or are on below minimum wage income.

Most of the women experienced obstetric problems during their pregnancies and gave birth without any medical assistance. The women were bleeding when they managed to reach a hospital. But when they asked for help, rather than gain support, the women were reported and prosecuted for aggravated murder.

A paper, ‘From Hospital to Jail’, to be launched by CAWN and the Reproductive Health Matters Journal explains that another effect of this restrictive legislation is the suicide rate of pregnant women which, according to the Maternal Death Surveillance System of the Ministry of Health from El Salvador, represented the third cause of maternal deaths in 2011. The paper establishes that the lack of alternatives in the case of an unwanted pregnancy is leading many women to commit suicide.

Under current Salvadoran law, anyone who performs an abortion with the woman’s consent, or a woman who self-induces or consents to someone else inducing her abortion, can be imprisoned.

Healthcare professionals are obliged to maintain patient confidentiality, but also to report any crimes to the police, including that of abortion.