10-23-20 Poland abortion ruling: Police use pepper spray against protesters
Police in Poland have used pepper spray against hundreds of people protesting in Warsaw against a court ruling that almost completely bans abortions. Protesters clashed with riot police outside the home of Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. It follows Thursday's ruling from the top court that ending the life of a deformed foetus is unconstitutional. It means abortion is only valid in cases of rape or incest, or to protect the mother's life. Poland's abortion laws were already among the strictest in Europe and it is estimated that about 100,000 women seek a termination abroad each year to get around the tight restrictions. The ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal led to protests in other cities across Poland on Thursday evening, including Krakow, Lodz and Szczecin. In Warsaw, hundreds of people marched from the court to the home of Jaroslaw Kaczynski - who heads the governing Law and Justice party - to vent their anger at the ruling. Some held candles or carried signs with the word "torture" on them. Current coronavirus restrictions limit public gatherings in Warsaw to just 10 people. Police said officers used pepper spray and physical force when some protesters threw stones and tried to push through the cordon around the house. A spokesman said 15 people were detained. The protest dispersed in the early hours of Friday but organisers called for further rallies later in the day. Although Poland is one of Europe's most Catholic countries, opinion polls suggest there is a clear majority against making the abortion law stricter, the BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw reports. Rights groups had urged the government not to increase restrictions. The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights said the court's decision marked a "sad day for women's rights". Dunja Mijatovic wrote on Twitter: "Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates human rights."
10-22-20 Poland abortion: Top court rules in favour of almost total ban
A court in Poland has ruled that abortions in cases of foetal defects are unconstitutional. Poland's abortion laws were already among the strictest in Europe but the Constitutional Tribunal's ruling will mean an almost total ban. Once the decision comes into effect, terminations will only be allowed in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother's health is at risk. Rights groups had urged the government not to increase restrictions. A legal challenge against the 1993 law permitting abortion in cases of severe foetal disabilities - which accounts for the vast majority of terminations carried out in Poland - was launched last year. A majority of the court's judges were nominated by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, which has sought a tightening of abortion legislation since coming to power in 2015. Ahead of the ruling, Polish sexual and reproductive health and rights activist Antonina Lewandowska told the BBC that the defence of the 1993 law was based on UN rules outlawing torture. "It's inhuman, it's despicable honestly to make anyone carry a pregnancy to term, especially if the foetus is malformed, and 98% of legal abortions carried out in Poland are due to foetal malformations," she said. International human rights groups opposed the government's stance, with Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Human Rights Watch saying they would send independent monitors to the court. "The Constitutional Tribunal's upcoming proceedings take place in the context of repeated government attacks on women's rights and efforts to roll back reproductive rights, as well as legal and policy changes that have undermined the independence of the judiciary and rule of law in Poland," they said in a joint statement. Previous proposals to restrict access to abortion under a citizen's bill but backed by many in the Law and Justice party were put forward in 2016, but the government backed down following mass street protests. The government backed a similar bill earlier this year, although it has not yet been passed.
10-18-20 If Roe falls
Why overturning the 1973 landmark ruling won't mean the end of abortion. Here's everything you need to know:
- Is Roe in jeopardy? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death may change the political balance of the court, but even if conservative Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to replace her, it won't guarantee the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
- How would repeal happen? There are several cases now making their way to the court that could provide a basis for a Roe reversal, including a near-total ban on abortions in Alabama that has already been signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, as well as a case brought by Whole Woman's Health challenging a prohibition of the dilation and evacuation (D&E) method of abortion.
- Can Congress intervene? If Roe were to fall, Congress could pass a national law either legalizing or prohibiting abortion in every state. Meanwhile, the total number of abortions in America has steadily fallen since reaching a high of 1.61 million in 1990.
- Would the number of abortions fall? Yes, but not dramatically. A study from Middlebury College in Vermont found that states most likely to criminalize abortion already have the lowest abortion rates, because there are already so many restrictions.
- What about mail-order drugs? Today about 40 percent of women who end their pregnancies do so by taking the abortion drugs Mifepristone and Misoprostol, which studies have shown are safe and effective at terminating pregnancies up to 20 weeks.
- Regulating providers out of business: Many legal analysts think it's more likely a 6-3 conservative majority will uphold ever more restrictive state laws on abortion than repeal Roe altogether. So-called TRAP laws, or targeted regulation of abortion providers, place costly and logistically difficult burdens on abortion providers to the point where they are effectively prohibited from practicing. Five states — Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia — have only a single abortion provider.
10-15-20 The rape survivors facing an ‘impossible choice’ in Brazil
Paloma had just cobbled together enough money for a clandestine abortion when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered much of Brazil. The 27-year-old had been raped late last year by an ex-boyfriend who remained a close family friend. The mother of two found out she was pregnant a few weeks later, after moving from her native Bahia to Minas Gerais, a nearby state, for work. "I didn't know what to do," recalls Paloma. "The only thing I was certain of was that I didn't want this child." Brazil has strict laws on abortion. Terminations are only allowed in cases of rape, when the mother's life is at risk or when the foetus has the defect anencephaly - a rare condition that prevents part of the brain and skull from developing. While Paloma was entitled to an abortion by law, like many women in Brazil, she was not entirely clear on her rights. She worried she would have to report the rape to the police in order to access a legal abortion - a tactic commonly used to steer women away from the procedure. But she feared retaliation from her rapist. "I was really worried about the safety of my children," she explains as her decision to save up for a clandestine termination. Clandestine abortions are risky: when performed without sound medical oversight, they can lead to complications and endanger women's lives. If found out, women can also face up to four years in jail. But Paloma did not know where else to turn and started saving the 3,700 reais ($660; £515) she needed for the clandestine procedure - a sum that is over three times Brazil's minimum monthly salary. A doctor was going to fly in from Rio de Janeiro, over 900km (560 miles) away from her new home in Minas Gerais, to perform the termination. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic paralysed Brazil, shutting airports, bus stations and health centres. By late April, Paloma was over 23 weeks pregnant. "When everything closed, it became really difficult to travel - it all became so complicated," she recalls. With the process dogged by delays, Paloma turned to the internet in search of options one last time. She stumbled upon Milhas pela Vida das Mulheres, a network helping women access safe abortions. The group helped her understand her rights and pointed her to one of the few legal abortion clinics still operating during the pandemic. For Paloma, it was a fortuitous turn of events. "I was going to risk my life and I may not have been alive today," she says of the clandestine abortion she was planning to have.
10-8-20 Spain abortion: Government works to repeal parental consent rule
The Spanish government has said it wants to change the law to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to seek an abortion without parental permission. Equality Minister Irene Montero said women should have the right to "decide about their bodies". In 2015, the ruling Popular Party (PP) changed Spain's abortion laws and mandated parental consent for those aged between 16 and 18. Abortion is legal in Spain in the first 14 weeks of a woman's pregnancy. On Wednesday, Ms Montero said the reform was "more than necessary". She added that other measures would be introduced, including a greater focus on sex education which she described as a "vaccine" in the fight against gender violence. The law change would also include the right to the "newest forms" of contraception, the minister told a parliamentary commission. The government is aiming to repeal the reform - introduced by the PP in 2015 - which established the obligation of parental consent in the case of girls between 16 and 18-years-old who wanted to end their pregnancy. But to be able to change that rule they would need the backing of an absolute majority in parliament, which is 176 votes. Abortion was first legalised in Spain in 1985 in cases of rape or physical damage to the mother or child. The scope of the law was broadened in 2010 by the last socialist government, which allowed abortion up to 22 weeks in cases of foetal deformities. In 2014, then Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dropped plans to limit abortion to cases of rape or where the mother's health was at serious risk. The proposals drew widespread opposition and prompted dissent in Mr Rajoy's Popular Party, despite being part of its election programme in 2011. The government instead changed the law to stop 16 and 17-year-olds having an abortion without parental consent.
9-27-20 Roe v Wade: Trump says Supreme Court ruling on abortion 'possible'
President Donald Trump has said it is "certainly possible" that his Supreme Court pick will be involved in a ruling revisiting the landmark 1973 decision that legalised abortion in the US. Mr Trump said he did not discuss abortion rights with Amy Coney Barrett before choosing her for the top court. But Ms Coney Barrett was "certainly conservative in her views", he said. She has been chosen to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but awaits Senate confirmation. Democrats and women's rights advocates fear Judge Barrett, a socially conservative jurist, could play a decisive role in any ruling overturning the 1973 judgment to legalise abortion, known as Roe v Wade. Should Judge Barrett's nomination be confirmed, conservative-leaning justices will hold a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, shifting its ideological balance for potentially decades to come. Mr Trump said he did not know how the judge would vote on the issue if her nomination was approved. "Mostly I'm looking for somebody who can interpret the constitution as written. She is very strong on that," Mr Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends on Sunday. Mr Trump announced Judge Barrett's nomination to the country's highest court at the White House on Saturday, describing the 48-year-old as a "stellar scholar" with "unyielding loyalty to the constitution". The court's nine justices serve lifetime appointments, and their rulings can shape US public policy on everything from gun and voting rights to abortion and campaign finance. Judge Barrett is the third justice appointed by the current Republican president, after Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. The abortion issue took centre stage in Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Mr Gorsuch and Mr Kavanaugh. Since then a number of conservative states have passed new abortion restrictions that could lead to legal challenges in the Supreme Court. (Webmaster's comment: Amy Coney Barrett is an enemy of us all!)
9-25-20 The German medical students who want to learn about abortion
Abortion has been available throughout Germany since the 1970s but the number of doctors carrying out the procedure is now in decline. Jessica Bateman meets students and young doctors who want to fill the gap. The woman at the family planning clinic looked at Teresa Bauer and her friend sternly. "And what are you studying?" she asked the friend, who had just found out she was pregnant, and wanted an abortion. "Cultural studies," she replied. "Ahhh, so you're living a colourful lifestyle?" came the woman's retort. Bauer sat still, hiding her rage. Stressed-out by the discovery of her accidental pregnancy, Bauer's friend had asked her to book the appointments needed to arrange an abortion. It wasn't just a case of calling her friend's GP to arrange a time for her to request a termination. First she needed to arrange a counselling appointment, which is designed to "protect unborn life", as German law puts it, and discourage a woman from going ahead with the procedure. Some of the clinics providing the service are run by churches - Bauer took care to avoid them, fearing that they would be judgemental. Then she needed to hunt down a doctor who could prescribe pills for an early medical abortion. It became legal last year for doctors to publicise the fact that they provide abortions but they cannot indicate what kinds of service they provide, so Bauer had to call medical practices one by one. "Berlin is a liberal city, so I thought it would be easier than it was," she says. "Even when we went to get the pill, the doctor's assistant kept asking, 'Are you really sure?' Seeing what my friend had to go through, and how she was treated, made me so angry that I decided to do something about it." Bauer was a third-year medical student at the time, so a few days later she emailed Medical Students for Choice Berlin, run by students at her university, telling them she wanted to start volunteering. She now works with them, campaigning for improved training on abortion for medical students, and raising awareness of the obstacles that people seeking an abortion may face.
9-9-20 Abortion: How do Trump and Biden's policies compare?
Abortion is arguably the most divisive issue in US politics - and with the presidential candidates promising to either revoke national rights to abortion or take extra steps to safeguard it, the stakes have never been higher. With President Trump in the White House, anti-abortion activists are energised and Republican-controlled states have tightened restrictions. Yet public support for abortion rights is the highest in decades, according to the Pew Research Center, with 61% of people favouring legal access to the procedure - and that's changed how Democrats talk about it. Let's compare where the presidential candidates stand on the issue. Mr Trump's key message: We are making it harder to get an abortion now, want to overturn federal protections and would support a near-total ban. Mr Biden's key message: We will protect a woman's right to choose and fight to keep access to abortion legal.
7-7-20 One in Four Americans Consider Abortion a Key Voting Issue
Just as Americans' general views of abortion remain mostly steady, so too are their opinions of whether it is a key voting issue for them. Nearly half of U.S. adults (47%) polled in May, before the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion, say the issue will be just one of many important factors in their vote for a candidate for a major office; 25% do not consider it a major issue. At the same time, the 24% of U.S. adults who say they will vote only for a candidate who shares their views on the issue is, along with last year, significantly higher than most other years in the trend.
- 47% say abortion issue is one of many important factors to their vote
- 24% say candidate must share abortion views; 25% say not a major issue
- 30% of pro-life, 19% of pro-choice adults say abortion is threshold issue
6-29-20 US top court strikes down law limiting abortions
The US Supreme Court has ruled that a law restricting abortions in Louisiana is unconstitutional. In a landmark decision, the justices said a law requiring that doctors who provide abortions have the right to admit patients at a local hospital placed an undue burden on women. Chief Justice John Roberts joined liberal justices in the 5-4 decision in a blow to anti-abortion groups. The court struck down a similar policy in Texas in 2016, the opinion noted. This was the first major abortion case ruling from the Supreme Court during the Trump presidency. The 2014 Louisiana law said that doctors must hold so-called admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles (48km) of their practice. But critics said the controversial law would limit the number of providers in the state, violating a woman's right to an abortion. June Medical Services v Russo asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether to uphold a lower court's opinion concerning the Louisiana law. The law required doctors to have admitting privileges to a hospital "not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced" in order to perform abortions. While the state said the requirement was to protect women's health, pro-choice advocates said that it's incredibly rare for women to face complications from an abortion. They also pointed out that many hospitals in the region are religiously-affiliated or conservative and don't allow abortions to take place in their facilities, which severely limits the number of doctors who can carry out the procedure. This then, in turn, constitutes an undue burden on a woman's constitutional right to seek an abortion, they said. A district court agreed that the law was unconstitutional, however, the 5th Circuit appeals court determined no clinics would "likely be forced to close" because of the law, and allowed it to stand. The petitioners asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether that decision violated past precedents and should be struck down.
6-29-20 Americans' Abortion Views Steady in Past Year
Americans' overall stance on abortion has been stable in recent years, with the 48% calling themselves "pro-choice" and 46% "pro-life" similar to the close division on this measure observed most years since 2010. For the past decade, an average of 47% of Americans have identified as pro-choice and 47% as pro-life. Almost every poll conducted during those years has revealed a close division in identification -- except in 2015, when the public tilted pro-choice, and in 2012, when it was more pro-life. Before that, from 1995 to 2009, the public leaned more pro-choice than pro-life by 49% to 43%, on average.
5-20-20 Roe v Wade: Woman behind US abortion ruling was paid to recant
The woman behind the 1973 ruling legalising abortion in the US is seen admitting in a new documentary that her stunning change of heart on the issue in later life was "all an act". Norma McCorvey, known as Jane Roe in the US Supreme Court's decision on Roe v Wade, shocked the country in 1995 when she came out against abortion. But in new footage, McCorvey alleges she was paid to switch sides. The documentary, AKA Jane Roe, airs this Friday on the US channel FX. The programme was filmed in the last months of McCorvey's life before her death at age 69 in 2017 in Texas. The Supreme Court ruling came after McCorvey, then a 25-year-old single woman under the pseudonym "Jane Roe", challenged the criminal abortion laws in Texas that forbade abortion as unconstitutional except in cases where the mother's life was in danger. Henry Wade was the Texas attorney general who defended the anti-abortion law. McCorvey first filed the case in 1969, when she was pregnant with her third child and claimed that she had been raped. But the case was rejected and she was forced to give birth. In her "deathbed confession", as she calls it, a visibly ailing McCorvey says she only became an anti-abortion activist because she was paid by evangelical groups. "I was the big fish," she said. "I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they'd put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. "That's what I'd say. It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress. Of course, I'm not acting now." She added: "If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that's no skin off my ass. That's why they call it choice." AKA Jane Roe chronicles McCorvey's troubled, impoverished youth as a sexual abuse survivor and her longstanding relationship with girlfriend Connie Gonzalez. After her mid-1990s conversion to become a born-again Christian, McCorvey disavowed Gonzalez, even as they continued to live together. The documentary touches upon another irony of McCorvey's life - that she herself never had an abortion.
3-13-20 Sweden abortion: Nurses fail in European court case
Two nurses denied jobs as midwives in Sweden because of their refusal to perform abortions have lost their legal action against Sweden at the European Court of Human Rights. Swedish-born Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen from Norway object to abortion because of their Christian faith. Swedish law requires midwives to carry out abortions - and several Swedish courts ruled against the two women. They then went to the ECHR but it declined to take up their case. They both trained to be midwives, receiving state funding, but were turned down for midwifery jobs. They argued that their freedom of conscience had been violated and that they had suffered discrimination. The nurses got legal assistance from ADF International, part of a US-based Christian group called Alliance Defending Freedom. It campaigns for what it calls "religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family" worldwide. The nurses cannot appeal again to the ECHR, now that it has dismissed their case. Robert Clarke, deputy director of ADF International, called the court decision "very disappointing". "Medical professionals should be able to work without being forced to choose between their deeply held convictions and their careers," he said. But Hans Linde, a leading sex education campaigner in Sweden, said it was "not a human right for nursing staff to refuse to provide care". He told Reuters news agency the ECHR decision would "help to protect women's health, the right to good quality care and to be treated with respect when seeking an abortion". The judges' decision on Ms Grimmark's complaint said there had been "an interference with her freedom of religion under Article Nine" of the European Convention on Human Rights. But it went on: "The interference with the applicant's freedom of religion was proportionate and justified with the view of achieving a legitimate aim." The judges said that interference "had a sufficient basis in Swedish law and... pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the health of women seeking an abortion".
1-31-20 Roe v. Wade
69% of Americans are opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade, including 91% of Democrats, 41% of Republicans, and 70% of independents. 79% think that decisions about abortions should be made by women and their doctors rather than by lawmakers. Only 11% think abortion should be illegal in all cases.
1-24-20 Trump first president to attend anti-abortion rally
Donald Trump has become the first US president to attend America's largest annual anti-abortion rally. He addressed thousands of protesters at the March for Life near the US Capitol where his impeachment trial is ongoing. Mr Trump said: "We're here for a very simple reason: to defend the right of every child born and unborn to fullfil their God-given potential." The annual demonstration first began in 1974 - a year after the US Supreme Court legalised abortion in Roe v Wade. Until now no president had ever attended the march, which takes place just steps from the White House, though previous Republican presidents, including George W Bush and Ronald Reagan, have addressed the group remotely. Mike Pence became the first sitting vice-president to attend the rally in 2017. Mr Trump's appearance at the 47th March for Life delighted protesters. Voters who support limiting abortion make up a key constituency for Mr Trump, who is seeking their support at the polls again in the 2020 election. On Friday, marchers in Washington shouted "four more years" and "we love you". On the streets surrounding the National Mall vendors selling Trump flags and Make America Great Again hats were aplenty. Many of the attendees sported pro-Trump merchandise, though for some, there was a distinction between liking the president and liking his anti-abortion stance. One young woman, Julia, told the BBC: "I'm not necessarily pro-Trump, but I appreciate that the President of the United States is making the move to be here." She added that she was unhappy at all the focus on Mr Trump as opposed to the issue. "Until the day we can see Roe v Wade switched, [the movement] will continue, whether he's president in the next election or not." Chuck Raymond, a financial advisor in St Louis, said: "Without a doubt, he is the most pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious freedom president we've ever had."
1-22-20 Dissatisfaction With U.S. Abortion Laws at New High
Fifty-eight percent of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the nation's policies on abortion, marking a seven-percentage-point increase from one year ago and a new high in Gallup's trend. On the flip side, 32% are now satisfied, a new low. The percentage wanting the laws to be less strict has increased to the point that roughly equal percentages of U.S. adults now are dissatisfied and favor less strict laws (22%) as are dissatisfied and want stricter laws (24%).
- Nearly six in 10 Americans not content with nation's abortion laws
- The dissatisfied are split between wanting stricter vs. less strict laws
1-13-20 Majority of women who have an abortion don’t regret it five years on
The majority of women who have an abortion don’t regret their decision. The finding rebuts the idea that mental distress is commonplace, which is often the basis of laws that require women to have cooling off periods after requesting an abortion, says Corinne Rocca at the University of California, San Francisco. Abortion is a political battleground in the US, with many states having introduced laws that restrict access. In eight states abortion providers must provide women with materials informing them that the procedure will cause lasting emotional harm, and in 27 states women who request an abortion have to wait for a compulsory cooling off period, usually of 24 hours, before they can have the procedure. When Ireland legalised abortion last year, it mandated a three-day cooling off period, partly to allay fears women would experience regret. The latest study was based on telephone surveys Rocca’s team conducted with 667 women who had abortions across 21 US states that have a variety of laws. The first interview took place about a week after the abortion, and the women were interviewed again semi-annually for up to five years. About half the women said in retrospect that the decision to have an abortion had been a difficult one to make at the time, but five years later 99 per cent said it had been the right one. When asked about their feelings five years on, 84 per cent of the women said they either had mainly positive emotions or no emotions about the procedure. The rest said their feelings were negative. The findings could have been biased by the fact that only 38 per cent of those asked to take part in the survey accepted, and women who felt more negatively about their decision might have been less likely to participate. However, Rocca says the results are similar to another study where women who had an abortion answered questions about their emotions just before their procedure.
1-10-20 Overturning Roe: The GOP sees an opening
“Finally, Republicans are saying what they have always meant about abortion,” said Lauren Rankin in NBCNews.com. Last week, 205 GOP members of Congress (plus two centrist Democrats) signed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, dropping their usual doublespeak about their concern for “the health and safety of women.” In the brief, Republicans said Roe had created an “unworkable standard” for states crafting their own abortion restrictions. With a firm 5-4 conservative majority, Republicans are seizing on the Supreme Court’s upcoming review of a Louisiana law that would require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges—a rule designed to close the state’s abortion clinics. The justices struck down an “indistinguishable” Texas law just four years ago, said Mark Stern in Slate.com. “In a remarkable act of chutzpah,” Republicans are saying the Texas ruling left states confused about how to define an “undue burden” on abortion rights, so the court should simply overturn its precedents and remove the right to abortion altogether. In most red states, Roe “has long been more concept than reality,” said Katie McDonough in NewRepublic.com. Although 77 percent of Americans say they support Roe, abortion rights have been under assault for decades, as states made it “more expensive, more time consuming, and more humiliating to access.” But pro-choice organizers across the country have built “shadow infrastructures” to enable women in these states to cover the costs of abortion, travel out of state, or obtain medications for “self-managed abortion.” That work will continue “whether or not Roe holds.”