U.S. Anti-Choice Organizations Have Influence Overseas

Following the Dr. Tiller documentary, I was curious to know if other countries that have legalized abortion face the same kinds of protests and threats featured in the film. Luckily, I didn’t find too much of the same type extremism that we have here the U.S. However, I did find that U.S. anti-choice organizations are trying to broaden their impact to places beyond our borders.

The organization 40 Days for Life, which was written about on this site in September not only targeted over 200 clinics in the U.S., but they extended their reach to 14 foreign locations. The Independent in the UK featured an article about their activity entitled US-style anti-abortion protesters target clinics in Britain.

Abortion is legal in Mainland UK (England, Scotland and Wales) up to 24 weeks and no limit if there are health risks and/or abnormalities. In addition, abortion procedures are covered by the National Health Service (NHS) so they are almost always free.

To find out more about anti-choice activity in Britain I reached out to the organization Abortion Rights and discussed the issue with Darinka Aleksic, Campaign Coordinator. [Read more...]

As the U.S. Votes, Brazil Gets Ready for a New Leader

Pro-choice Americans are faced with a nerve wrecking election today. Are pro-choice candidates going to maintain control of congress? Will anti-choice candidates for governors be voted in to lead their states down the wrong path? Will we wake up tomorrow with the knowledge that woman’s freedoms will still have strong supporters in elected office come January?

Maybe one way to ensure women’s issues are taken seriously is to have more female candidates. Sure, just having women candidates is absolutely no guarantee that issues affecting women will be talked about or acted upon. However, it does give more voice to female power and it is hopeful that this will lead to female empowerment overall.

In one country, women’s empowerment has reached the top level of political power. As I wrote about earlier, Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, chose Dilma Rousseff as his candidate to take over where he leaves off. [Read more...]

World Economic Forum Reports the Best and Worse in Gender Equality

While the United States entered the top twenty for the first time, Iceland remained the leader in gender equity according to a report from the World Economic Forum that was released last week.

Since 2005, the forum has ranked 134 countries for their reduction of gender disparities in economic participation, education, political empowerment and health over the previous year. Some of the ways the determine the results is by looking at life expectancy, access to jobs and education, number of women in government and high level decision making positions and pay.

Nordic countries lead the pack with Norway, Finland and Sweden coming in just behind Iceland to make up the top four. On the other end of the spectrum, Pakistan, Chad and Yemen continue to show no progress in reducing gender disparities. The most surprising country was France that slipped to 46th place from 18th last year.
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Working Towards Reproductive Rights in Nicaragua

In 2006, Nicaragua criminalized all abortions including pregnancies resulting from rape/incest or even when the woman’s life is in danger.  It is one of only three countries in the western hemisphere to have such a strict ban on abortion, the other two are Chile and El Salvador.

This ban in Nicaragua is disappointing on a number of levels. Besides the obvious obstruction of human rights, it is enacted by a political party originally supported by feminists and secular leaders. In fact, the Sandista’s party planned to encourage comprehensive sex education in order to combat unplanned pregnancies from a prevention standpoint. Unfortunately, the church’s influence can be seen in the official education policy that emphasizes abstinence and morality rather than birth control and self-respect.

Currently, President Daniel Ortega returned to power after seeking out support from the Catholic Church. Promptly after his election win he threw his weight behind the ban on therapeutic abortions leading to its passage. [Read more...]

Is Brazil Ready For Some MachismA?

Brazil will elect their new president this October. Whoever wins will have big shoes to fill. Current president, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva has an approval rating of over 70%. This popularity is due in part to successful programs helping families living in poverty. One of those programs is Bolsa Familia (Family Fund), which gives stipends to poor families whose children attend school and get proper vaccinations.

President Lula’s choice to succeed him is his former energy minister and current chief of staff Dilma Rousseff. If she were to win she would be the first woman president of Brazil. Being Lula’s candidate gives her a huge advantage, as many are willing to vote for her simply because of Lula’s support.

She holds a fairly significant lead in the polls and barring any major blunders it looks like she could be shoe-in to take the election. If she receives more than 50% of the votes on October 3rd, there will be no need for a run-off election later in the month. [Read more...]

Subtle Ad in the UK Creates Big Debates

A few weeks ago, a new television advertisement in the UK started to stir up controversy. The ad simply features the question “Are you late?” As well as, the phone number and website for the sexual and reproductive health care provider, Marie Stopes International. This is the first television ad for an abortion provider in the UK.

Abortion is legal in the UK (except Northern Ireland where the ad will not be seen) if two doctors give consent. They must state that ending the pregnancy is in the best interest of the woman and would cause either physical or mental health issues. This law was enacted in 1967 and many reproductive rights advocates believe it should be updated to make the process of obtaining reproductive services easier for women. Still, approximately 200,000 abortions are carried out in Britain each year

Marie Stopes International is similar to Planned Parenthood and was founded in 1976. It grew out of an organization originally set up by Ms. Stopes in 1921. At that time, it served as a resource center for married women and advocated for reproductive rights. Their current mission is simply” children by choice not chance.”  Health screenings, education, birth control access, abortion services, an adoption helpline and advocacy campaigns are some of the many activities this organization does worldwide. [Read more...]

Celebrity Parents and the Paparazzi

Baby pictures usually invoke warm fuzzy feelings, which is part of the reason why people flock to newsstands when a celebrity baby is on the cover of a magazine. Between baby bumps, Suri Cruise’s fashions and the whole Jolie-Pitt clan people can’t seem to get enough of famous people’s children. This is why the paparazzi can expect a large payday if they snap a pic of celebrity offspring.

Some celebrities have spoken out against targeting children for photos, while others seem to almost pimp their children for attention.  A member of the paparazzi explains in the Nightline piece that certain parks are known to photographers and celebrities alike. Therefore, when they bring their children to these parks, they know full well they will be photographed. This isn’t a reason to call child protective services, but it isn’t exactly best parenting practice either.   [Read more...]

Mexican Abortion Policies Under Fire

Mexican abortion laws are becoming more restrictive despite recent gains in the region. In 2007, Mexico City with a population of nearly nine million people decriminalized abortion. This happened after the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights granted a young woman reparation for being denied information on legal abortion services and care. This marked the first time in Latin America that abortion access was acknowledged as a human right by a government body.
Now the Mexican State of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula (Think Cancun) is in the media spotlight. Public officials are accused of denying and an eleven-year-old girl information that would have allowed her to get a safe abortion. She became pregnant after being raped by her stepfather and state law allows abortion in cases of rape.
Like many other countries, Mexico needs more access to and education on abortion services, not less. Some women resort to crossing the U.S. border into Texas and other southwest states for the purpose of obtaining safe abortions. “Indeed, a 2009 report from the Guttmacher Institute clearly demonstrates that despite abortion being essentially illegal in virtually all of Mexico, abortion is 40 percent more prevalent in that country than in the United States.” (Marcy Bloom) [Read more...]

Iraqi Women Prepare For Parliament

In the wake of two decades of equality declines, the women of Iraq have been given a glimmer of hope for progress. Iraq’s new constitution mandates that 25% of parliament’s seats must be held by women. Like women around the world, Iraqi women have a history of fighting for their rights.

The 1970s/80s saw an increase in public policy aimed at gender equality in Iraq’s public sphere. Even the constitution of 1970 contained an article stating that all citizens are equal regardless of sex.

Unfortunately, this type of progress didn’t continue in the 1990s which brought sanctions, conflict and an increase in fundamentalist influence on policy. Schools deteriorated and women’s economic development slowed during this time. The literacy rate of Iraqi women dropped from 75% in 1987 to less than 25% in 2000. (Human Rights Watch)

Then came the U.S. invasion in 2003. This so-called liberation put new pressures on the women of Iraq. As with most conflict situations women faced increased assaults, rape and kidnapping. Women are often responsible for meeting the basics need of the family and this became increasingly difficult as infrastructure was destroyed and their mobility limited by insecurity. [Read more...]

Abortion Law Harms Kenyan Women and Girls

Anyone who believes that making abortion illegal saves lives has probably never experienced desperation or been affected by misinformation. When access to safe abortion is denied, women turn to dangerous back alley and at-home methods of abortion. Women in countries that outlaw abortions will drink turpentine or bleach, jump from stairs or a rooftop and place foreign bodies such as the classic clothes hanger into their uterus in order to end a pregnancy. 

Any of these methods and others used by women around the world can cause injury and even death. The Center for Reproductive Rights released the report In Harm’s Way: The impact of Kenya’s restrictive abortion law, which details how women are dying because of fuzzy legal language and the criminalization of abortion.

Women in Africa are not more or less likely to have an abortion than any other women in the world. However, women in Africa are more likely to have unsafe abortions and Kenya has one of the highest rates of abortion related deaths. “In Kenya, 35% of maternal deaths are attributable to unsafe abortion.”

Kenya’s current law about abortion states:

Any person who, with intent to procure miscarriage of a woman…unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison…or uses force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.”
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