This article was originally published in This is feminism, on 14 August 2016
Every day across the world, women are arrested, harassed, and prosecuted for having abortions. Whatever your position on the pro-choice/pro-life debate, we need to raise awareness of how aggressive and inhumane the punishments on women can be, when they reach the point where they feel that abortion is their only option.
In most of the ‘developed’ world, abortion is legalised, which means that though there are often social and financial barriers which remain set against women, they should still be able to receive a medically controlled abortion that is safe, and responsible post-abortion care, without fear of imprisonment or persecution. However, in the majority of the world, abortion is almost totally illegal. Exceptions are made in some countries in the case of rape, or if the life of the mother is at risk, however in parts of Latin America there is a total ban in all circumstances. This leads to tragic consequences for women, such as the case below.
…A 28-year-old woman in the city of Santa Cruz became pregnant as the result of rape. She attempted to self-induce an abortion and ended up in the hospital with severe complications. While in the hospital, she was reported to the police authorities by her doctor, was apprehended and handcuffed on charges of illegal abortion. She spent her 10-day hospital stay under police custody and was then transferred to a prison where she subsequently spent eight months in preventive detention (IPAS, 2015).
This map shows the status of abortion laws worldwide. (Source: WHO, 2008)
Poli Palian is currently seeking artists to exhibit their artworks as part of Festival Of Choice 2016
Hi everyone! It’s Poli here! #PalianSHOW Founder of Babski Londyn, Babski Spęd Art Festival and The Cycle Festival.
This year I am working with Festival of Choice and we want to invite you to contribute as you have an awesome chance to show off your creativity during the Festival of Choice!
Please note that we have limited space, plus we are not able to use any nails or blue tack for the exhibition, so the artwork should be light enough to be hanged up with velcro tape. So if you think your work’s can handle that, do get in touch!
Women’s reproductive rights, specifically the right to have an abortion, are a highly contentious topic in the whole of Latin America. Despite various legislative advances in recognising women’s rights, aimed at redressing inequalities born from gender discrimination (which vary from country to country), when it comes to a woman’s right to decide as an individual with agency over her own body the legislation of most of Latin America closes the legal and safe access to choice and persecutes those who dare to try to take back control of their own bodies and lives. Even as the outbreaks of the zika virus continue across the continent, most countries highly restrict the access to abortion or even have a total ban on it. El Salvador is one of them.
The draconian abortion law of El Salvador, which bans abortion under any circumstance in 1998, has earned the country a dubious reputation for ruthless criminalisation of women who interrupt their pregnancies and a complete disregard for the value of a woman’s life. Local and international women’s rights groups have worked hand in hand to change this situation, and in the last few years have managed to bring the Salvadoran authorities under international scrutiny, as some of the most dramatic cases have gathered international consternation and support for the cause, whilst opening up the public debate at a national level.
It has been over a year since the campaign Libertad para #Las17 (Free the 17) was started in El Salvador by the Agrupación Ciudadana , asking for pardons for 17 women jailed for abortion after having miscarriages, stillbirths or obstetric complications. Fifteen of these women are still behind bars, and we must continue to pressure the Salvadoran government to fix this injustice and return them their freedom.
“El Salvador keeps criminalising women who suffered obstetric complications”
El Salvador bans abortion in all circumstances, including when pregnancy is a result of rape or when abortion is required to save a woman’s life. Medical professionals face penalties for any involvement, and are obliged to report suspected abortions.
Women and girls are systematically persecuted under this law, even when they have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or obstetric complications rather than procured an illegal abortion. They are often sentenced to life imprisonment.
‘Las 17’ campaign, started in March 2014 by Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizens group for the decriminalisation of abortion), demanded the freedom of 17 of these women wrongly sentenced to life imprisonment following miscarriages or obstetric complications.
Their unfair trials did not meet international standards: they were denied due process, the right to be presumed innocent, access to adequate legal representation before and during their trial, or, in some cases, the right to testify in their own defence. Some of them were prosecuted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment – up to 40 years– following trials where no conclusive evidence was presented and where decisions were based on conjecture and prejudice.
Most of these women come from disadvantaged backgrounds and suffer disproportionately from the ban on abortion, which doesn’t listen to the voices of those who have suffered from obstetric complications or miscarriages.
CAWN’s briefing paper focuses on El Salvador
In January 2015, the Legislative Assembly granted the pardon of Carmen Guadalupe, one of Las 17. Mirna, another of Las 17, was also granted a pardon, but only by the time she had already served her sentence. The Supreme Court has not approved any other pardon so far. Other similar cases have emerged since the start of the campaign.
They are not criminals. They are not murderers. We demand their freedom.
Spain, September 2015.
Just a few days ago, on 9th September, the Senate has passes the new reform on the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Abortion Act. According to this, women between 16 and 18 years old will no longer be allowed to voluntarily interrupt their pregnancies; having to provide a parental consent, required by law, to access to a legal and safe abortion.
This fact drive us back 35 years, to the law of 1985, and repeal the assumption on the law of 2010, in which all girls and women older 16 years old were free to decide and to access to a legal and safe abortion.
According to abortion clinics data, this new legal reform will affect more than 400 minor girls in Spain. Furthermore, it establishes a large step backwards on the Sexual and Reproductive Rights leaving unprotected and in a context of vulnerability to young women.
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