Abortion bans in the US and Malta; progress in Sierra Leone and Germany; benefits for domestic workers in Spain, and more
By Agustina Ordoqui
US: Following the supreme court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, 26 US states are on track to ban or restrict abortion – in several cases, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Attempts to ban abortion have been temporarily blocked by courts in some states, including Kentucky and Louisiana. In Ohio, a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant as a result of rape was reportedly forced to travel to Indiana to have an abortion. Meanwhile, demand for abortion pills has skyrocketed. Since June 24, thousands of people have demonstrated in the US and all over the world in support of the right to choose.
SIERRA LEONE: President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone has announced his support for a bill to decriminalise abortion at the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights. Sierra Leone has a law dating back to 1861 that only allows abortion when the life, physical mental health of the patient is in danger. In 2015, the Safe Abortion Act was passed in parliament, but the president at the time, Ernest Bai Koroma, refused to enact it. The new bill – the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Act – will now go to parliament for approval. Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world: 1,120 mothers die for every 100,000 live births.
MALTA: A US woman who suffered life-threatening pregnancy complications in Malta had to be airlifted to Mallorca, Spain, in order to terminate her pregnancy. Andrea Prudente, who was 16 weeks pregnant, was on holiday with her partner when she began bleeding heavily and had to be hospitalised. Doctors refused to terminate the pregnancy, even though the foetus had no chance of survival and Prudente’s life was in danger. Malta is the only country in the European Union that prohibits termination of pregnancy under all circumstances. Following the controversy, 135 Maltese doctors signed a judicial protest demanding the ban be reviewed. The Maltese government has announced it will look into the effect of the abortion law on doctors.
EL SALVADOR: A woman who suffered a miscarriage has been sentenced to 50 years in prison, the maximum penalty in El Salvador’s penal system, on charges of aggravated homicide. « Lesli », 19, unknowingly went into labour and lost the pregnancy. She was first taken to a hospital and from there was transferred to prison. In May, another woman, « Esme », was sentenced to 30 years for miscarrying. Abortion is completely banned in El Salvador and the pressure of the law is such that women are frequently reported to authorities by medical personnel for miscarrying. In November last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recommended that women who had been imprisoned for having abortions or miscarriages be freed. However, the persecution of women who have
ended pregnancies, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, continues.
GERMANY: German doctors will no longer be fined for providing information on abortion, after parliament approved a reform of the country’s Nazi-era law. Parliamentarians voted to scap paragraph 219a, which banned the « promotion of abortion ». Abortion is currently legal up to 12 weeks or in cases of health risks or rape in Germany. The pregnant person must attend a legal counselling session and wait three days before having the procedure.
COLOMBIA: Outgoing president Iván Duque’s government ordered the Colombian constitutional court to study requests sent by citizens who oppose the decriminalisation of abortion, which took place in February this year. The request was made by the justice ministry on June 25, the same week that the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade. However the incoming president, Gustavo Petro, and the vice-president, Francia Márquez will take office in August. Both are pro-choice. Also in June, Petro received the Colombian Truth Commission’s final report, created under the 2016 peace agreement, which has for the first time addressed reproductive and sexual violence committed by guerrillas and paramilitary organisations during Colombia’s armed conflict.
POLAND: The Committee on Legal Abortion Without Compromises brought an initiative to the Polish parliament in June to recognise the right to abortion up to 12 weeks. However, the lower house rejected the bill with 175 MPs in favour and 285 against. Poland bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the life of the patient. Abortion in cases of foetal abnormality was banned in January 2021. Two women have died as a result of the law since then.
AUSTRALIA: Australia could increase paid leave to 20 weeks for fathers and same-sex partners. Currently, fathers and same-sex partners are entitled to two weeks at the national minimum wage, paid by the federal government. Australia offers maternity leave of up to 12 weeks composed of 60 paid days and 30 flexible paid parental leave days. Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has also stated that his first parliamentary move will be to introduce a bill offering ten days of paid family and domestic violence leave by the end of the year, which would benefit more than eight million Australians.
SPAIN: Domestic and care workers will be entitled to unemployment benefits after congress ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 189, which states that domestic workers should enjoy the same rights and working conditions as other professions. More than half a million domestic workers will have access to unemployment insurance and other rights. According to Oxfam data, one in three Spanish domestic workers lived below the poverty line before the pandemic, while one in six was in extreme poverty. The labour ministry said it was working to ensure the regulation would come into force before the summer recess in August.
THAILAND: A bill legalising same-sex marriage and civil unions has passed first reading in the Thai house of representatives. The initiative was introduced by the opposition and received 212 votes in favour, 180 against and 12 abstentions. It must now be resubmitted for second and final readings, and will then need to be considered by the senate and the constitutional court to become law. The bill was debated alongside three other iniatiatives: two, submitted by the Thai government, would only recognise same-sex civil unions. If any version of the legislation is passed, Thailand will become the second country in Asia to allow same-sex unions after Taiwan. On June 5, Bangkok celebrated its first Pride march in 16 years.
This issue of Impact was prepared by Agustina Ordoqui, Heloísa Marques, Megan Clement and Steph Williamson.
Impact is financed by the New Venture Fund.
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