June 13, 2019

Are anti-abortion laws harming women?

The Stream takes a look at pro-abortion rights campaigns in different countries.

On Thursday, June 13 at 19:30GMT:

Pro-abortion rights activists say anti-abortion rights policies are threatening millions of women. In this episode, The Stream takes a look at three distinct debates around the world.

Gag rule
A report by the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) says the US government's reinstatement of a decades-old policy that bans government-funded aid groups from discussing abortion is "ultimately killing" women. According to the report, which focused on Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria and South Africa, the so-called global gag rule – or Mexico City Policy – "reduces access to contraceptives and abortion care, leading to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and preventable deaths."

We’ll speak with researchers from IWHC to find out more.

Honduras ban
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that Honduras’ ban on abortion is putting women and girls at risk. In a recent report, “Life or Death Choices for Women Living Under Honduras’ Abortion Ban”, Honduran women discuss the difficulties they’ve experienced when trying to end a pregnancy.

Honduran law imposes prison sentences of up to six years on women, girls, and medical professionals who induce abortions, according to HRW. The government also bans emergency contraception - and since nearly 1 in 4 women in Honduras are victims of physical or sexual abuse by a partner, many are forced to terminate pregnancies in secret. Although researchers do not know exactly how many backdoor procedures are performed, they estimate that 50,000 to 80,000 abortions happen every year. In addition, data from the Honduran health secretary indicates that at least 8,600 women were hospitalised in 2017 due to complications from an abortion or miscarriage.

We speak to Human Rights Watch researchers.

Northern Ireland
The US state of Alabama made headlines worldwide when its governor signed into law one of the most restrictive anti-abortion measures in the United States. While many pro-abortion rights campaigners expressed shock over the move, activists in Northern Ireland were quick to observe that Northern Irish women were still living under anti-abortion laws crafted in 1861. In Northern Ireland, both women and medical professionals can be prosecuted for the procedure, forcing many to travel elsewhere to have it done.

Still, last year’s referendum in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland, which legalised abortion, has given pro-abortion rights activists like Elizabeth Nelson of the Belfast Feminist Network hope that change is possible. Writing in The Guardian, Nelson said, “We need the grit and magic of that moment now more than ever. We are more powerful than we think.”

In this segment, we’ll speak with pro-abortion rights campaigners in Northern Ireland to hear how activists are working to help patients receive care and avoid penalty.

Read more:
Crisis In Care: Year Two Impact of Trump’s Global Gag Rule - International Women's Health Coalition
Life or Death Choices for Women Living Under Honduras’ Abortion Ban - Human Rights Watch
Abortion law 'harsher in Northern Ireland than in Alabama' - The Guardian

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