Parliamentary Network E-News

Volume 12
No. 5
June, 2018
 
Focus on International Organizations
UN: Deputies in Argentina Vote to Legalize Abortion with Help from the UN
The Chamber of Deputies was the scene of a 23 hour debate on abortion which resulted in a close 129-125 vote to legalize abortion on demand for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy; abortion is currently allowed in case of rape or when the life or health of the woman is at risk. Late term abortion would be allowed if a pregnancy presents a risk to a woman's "physical, psychological or social health"; broadly defined categories that pro-lifers fear will result in abortion on demand until birth. The bill-Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy- will advance to the Senate where it is expected to encounter greater opposition.

Pro-abortion mobilization had organized under the theme of a "green wave" with lawmakers and pro-abortion activists holding green scarves. The usual international pro-abortion NGOs were active in the lobby effort including IPPF, Human Rights Watch and 'Catholics for Choice'.

Pro-abortion lawmakers cited radical abortion recommendations from UN treaty bodies to support a Yes vote including the recent UN report by the Committee on the Rights of the Child which said that Argentine teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 should access to abortion. The report recommended the government provide "access to safe abortion services and postabortion care for adolescents, ensuring that their opinions are always heard and duly taken into account as part of the process of decision making."
 
The Chair of UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in legislation and practice, Ivana Radačić from Croatia, sent a letter to the Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie as debate was beginning saying that criminalized abortion "exploits women's bodies, denies their autonomy and endangers their lives and health".

According to news reports, the letter stated"We are writing to congratulate your Legislature for your consideration of a bill that decriminalizes the termination of pregnancy in the first fourteen weeks, and to urge you to approve that project. We welcome the important step that is being taken to guarantee women all their human rights."

The working group also wrote that "the criminalization of abortion and the lack of adequate access to services for the interruption of an unwanted pregnancy constitute discrimination based on sex, in contravention of Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , ratified by Argentina on August 8, 1986 and Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by Argentina on July 15, 1985." 

The letter took direct aim at the influence of religious values and beliefs on law and policy charging that "in accordance with international human rights law, religious arguments are not allowable to prevent the adoption of bills because this would violate the human right to religious freedom".

The letter also expressed support for self-induced abortion stating, "In addition, the prohibition of self-induced abortion causes even more harm to economically disadvantaged women, whose limited resources increase their chances of unwanted pregnancies, prevent them from accessing any method of safe abortion or seek treatment for complications that may ensue."

The quotes from the letter are taken directly from news reports, the letter could not be found on the Working Group's website. The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, a process that increasingly gives special support and attention to pro-abortion issues. In March, the Working Group sent a letter to Poland protesting any new pro-life bills.  
The Argentine Senate is expected to consider the bill in September.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri has encouraged legislative debate on abortion stating that while he was personally opposed to abortion he would not veto a bill legalizing abortion if presented to him.
UN Report Takes Aim at US Abortion Regulations and Trump Policies
The United States is the subject of a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, who traveled to the US last December "to evaluate, and report to the Human Rights Council on, the extent to which the Government's policies and programmes aimed at addressing extreme poverty are consistent with its human rights obligations and to offer constructive recommendations to the Government and other stakeholders."

The report is highly critical of the US including in the area of state restrictions on abortion and claims: "Low income women face legal and practical obstacles, such as mandatory waiting periods and long driving distances to clinics. This lack of access to abortion services traps many women in cycles of poverty."

The report uses data on poverty from 2016, before the election of President Trump, but that hasn't stop criticism of the Trump administration. Pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) was quick to use the report to criticize the administration's actions to stop funds to abortion industry giant Planned Parenthood stating,
 
"There is an ongoing backlash against reproductive rights, social protection programs, and historically marginalized communities within the United States. The Special Rapporteur's sobering report is particularly timely, given the current administration's assault on access to reproductive health care in the United States, including its current attempts to block access to essential health care services for millions of women under the federal Title X Family Planning Program." 

Rapporteur Philip Alston is actually listed as a member of the CRR's International Legal Advisory Committeeand is another example of a UN office holder's close affiliation with a pro-abortion organization.

The report, and its charge that "the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power" is being used in anti-Trump efforts by Democratic Members of Congress whose actions include a letter to US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley in which they urge President Trump to bring the Convention on the Rights of the Child before the Senate for ratification. Congressional signers of the letter include senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Jeff Merkley and representatives John Lewis, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, and James McGovern.

Alston will next present his report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 21.

A UN Special Rapporteur is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, and is supposed to be composed of "independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective". These individuals do not receive a salary and are not UN staff yet their reports and actions are considered credible and official.

Organization of American States: Pro-Life Action by US
The 48th session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) took place in Washington, DC with the United States expressing concern on one of the most contentious resolutions for its inclusion of "sexual and reproductive health" in regards to monitoring policies in the region in relation to violence against women. The resolution Promotion and Protection of Human RightsAG/CG/DOC. (XLVIII-O/18)5 >> REV. 2 includes section XV expressing support and increased funding for the work of the Follow-up Mechanism on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (MESECVI).
 
MESECVI is a treaty monitoring body created to oversee compliance by signatories to the anti-violence against women treaty Belem do Para but actively promotes access to the violence of abortion. The controversial paragraph, 4, references The Hemispheric Report on Child Pregnancy in the States Party to the Belém do Pará Conventiona MESECVI document that seeks to advance the radical abortion agenda and was written with input from individuals belonging to leading pro-abortion NGOs including the Center for Reproductive Rights, Ipas, Women's Link, and CLADEM.
 
It is filled with references to "sexual and reproductive health" and in the public policy recommendations seeks legislation to "Eliminate unsafe abortion, ensuring normatively that all pregnancies in girls are considered high risk and allowing legal termination of pregnancy". The pro-abortion extremism is evident in the call to "Override all criminal laws and protocols that deepen gender stereotypes and in particular stereotypes about the responsible victim or the priority of the life of the product of forced pregnancy against the best interests of girls".

MESECVI references pro-abortion recommendations by UN treaty bodies that are also exceeding their mandates in an attempt to justify its abortion extremism including General Comment 15 by the Committee on the Rights of the Child which calls for access to "safe abortion and post-abortion care services, regardless of whether or not abortion is legal."

The US expressed its opposition to Canada's insertion of "sexual and reproductive health" in the paragraph which resulted in removal of the often abortion-inclusive term from the text. In addition, the US issued a reservation, called a footnote according to OAS technical procedures, stating:
 
The United States cannot associate itself with this section of the resolution because we are not a party to the Convention of Belem do Para. Nevertheless, the U.S. Government remains strongly committed to preventing, punishing, and eradicating violence against women and, in particular, prosecuting its perpetrators. Moreover, the United States believes the term "sexual and reproductive health" is open to many interpretations and therefore the United States does not associate itself with this section.
 
The reports issued by MESECVI, and actions by associated individuals, often conflict with the pro-life foreign policy of President Trump. Recently, the Technical Secretary of the MESECVI, Luz Patricia Mejía, who is also a past president of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, was in Argentina telling legislators to legalize abortion. The resolution also sought additional funding for her office.
International Pressure for Abortion
Ireland: First Country to Vote for Legalized Abortion on Demand
Voters in Ireland approved a referendum to remove constitutional protection for unborn children by a vote of 66.4 percent in favor and 33.6 percent opposed. The vote repeals the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution which states: "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right". It was replaced with"Provision may be made in law for regulation of termination of a pregnancy." 
 
Lawmakers in the Dáil and Senate are now drafting legislation to set up access to abortion guided by the Health Minister Simon Harris' 5 page Policy Paper, Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy which includes"termination of pregnancy up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without specific indication". In addition, the guidance states that "termination of pregnancy for a fetal condition likely to lead to death before or shortly after birth or for maternal health should not have a gestational limit in the General Scheme"; language that the pro-life movement in Ireland believes opens the door for late-term abortion on demand owing to the broad term "maternal health".
 
The result places Ireland in the ignoble position of being the first country to vote to legalize abortion and not have it imposed legislatively or judicially. An analysis of the vote shows that 64.1% of eligible voters voted and a minority of 42.5% of Irish citizens actually voted to legalize abortion.
 
Despite the euphoria by government officials, including the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and pro-abortion activists, it can be argued that there is not overwhelming majority support for legalizing abortion as 35.9% did not vote and 33.6% of voters opposed repealing the 8th.
 
The burden is now on lawmakers to devise legislation while political parties begin to form positions on the legislation. A provision to protect health providers' right to conscientious objection is one of the controversies facing lawmakers and the cabinet. Health Minister Harris tweeted that there will be an opt-out clause for health providers opposed to abortion but that those who do so will be required to refer for abortion, including general practice physicians.
 
Lawmakers themselves may be denied the right to vote according to their conscience by political parties which may demand that members vote the party position. Sinn Fein's TD Peadar Tóibín, who is opposed to abortion on demand, is preparing for the party struggle stating, " I know some party members are obviously unhappy with the fact I have articulated a strong view on this but for me if there just one child under threat, nevermind thousands over generations, if there is one child I would have no choice but to grab with both hands the chance to save that child's life.
 
"People have said to me, 'well what if you lose your job over this', and I said, it is not the end of the world if I lose my job, but if abortion comes in for the child, it is the end of the world. One child's life is more important than my job, and every TD's job."

Other provisions of the legislation will include regulations on access to abortion inducing drugs which are expected to be covered under the country's prescription drug program with a limit of $155 for any prescribed drug and are likely to be free to medical card holders.
 
Health Minister Harris is expected to present suggestions to the Dáil on July 10 and 11, before it breaks for summer recess, while the Oireachtas Health Committee continues to meet over the summer to work through the details and to prepare legislation for consideration in September.
Defending Life
US: HHS Revises Title X Policy to Stop Family Planning Funds for Abortion
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposal to update the policy related to Title X family planning funding to ensure that funds are not going to abortion services. The revised "Compliance with Statutory Program Integrity Requirements" of the Title X program now states- "Title X project may not perform, promote, refer for, or support, abortion as a method of family planning, nor take any other affirmative action to assist a patient to secure such an abortion." The new policy creates more transparency and accountability to ensure Title X recipients are not using any of the federal funds for abortion services. It also protects the conscience rights of medical personnel by not requiring them to refer for abortions. The new rule follows a letter to the HHS from 153 pro-life Members of Congress, and similar letters from 41 Senators and 86 pro-life leaders.
 
There is an open comment period on the rule until July 31, 2018.
Executive News
Finland: No Tolerance for Foreign Minister's Pro-Life Views
Finish president Sauli Niinistö demonstrated his lack of tolerance for diverse opinions when he criticized the pro-life views of Foreign Minister Timo Soini who attended the March for Life in Canada. President Sauli Niinistö was reported to have said that he considered it "strange" for the foreign minister to publically express his views against abortion while in a foreign country.

Soini responded that he attended the rally as a private individual and and defended his position against abortion in his blog, saying "how odd it is that someone would have to defend the right to defend life".

He noted that "freedom of religion is interpreted to mean that anti-abortion views are permitted in internal discussions within the church behind closed doors. However it should not be debated in public in a democratic society."

Finish Interior Minister Mykkänen and Foreign Trade and Development Minister Virolainen also showed intolerance when Soini criticized the outcome of the Irish referendum in his blog but they had no problem expressing support for Finland's exporting the violence of abortion to developing countries, a majority of which do not want abortion and restrict it.

"Timo Soini's opinion is not Finland's official position on abortion," said Mykkänen. "As development minister I would have increased funding for sexual and reproductive health as well as support for reproductive rights including access to safe abortions in developing countries," he added.

"In all of its interactions Finland promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights...The right to abortion is not a matter of opinion. It is a question of human rights," Virolainen added.

Soini responded, "It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that I hold this position. And I'm not ashamed of it, nor will I ever be." He stated that human life is sacred from the womb to the grave and that he has always opposed the culture of death, whether it meant abortion or euthanasia.

He expressed concern for the right to freedom of speech and of voicing an opinion stating, "I'm more concerned that in Europe and the rest of the world, we try to use freedom of speech and of opinion so that some things can be discussed, while others may not."

Legislative News
Portugal: Parliament Rejects Four Bills to Legalize Euthanasia
Portugal's parliament rejected legislation to legalize euthanasia, pushing back a left-leaning push by the government to "modernize" the country. Lawmakers voted on four separate but similar bills that would permit assisted suicide. The bills, sponsored by different parties, all failed to pass, the closest one by a vote of 115-110. The debate on euthanasia was the result of a public petition calling for its consideration in 2016. 
AU: NSW Parliament Passes Bill to Ban Pro-Life Protests at Abortion Clinics
The New South Wales parliament approved a bill to ban peaceful protests outside abortion clinics. The legislation creates "safe access zones" within 150 metres around abortion clinics and penalizes violators of the new law with possible jail time. The lower house of parliament passed the bill by a vote of 61-18. Minister for Women, Tanya Davies, voted against the bill and defended sidewalk counselors. "They don't force their views onto these women, they are offering simply another choice to these women - yet this bill will criminalise that offer."Other ministers opposed the bill citing its infringement on free speech.
Guernsey: Parliament Defeats Proposal to Legalize Assisted Suicide
The Guernsey parliament- the States of Deliberation- has rejected a bill to legalize euthanasia after three days of debate and votes on amendments. Legislators on the island nation defeated the proposal by a vote of 24-14. A bill to increase support for palliative care passed by 37-1. Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, welcomed the vote. "...Guernsey's Deputies have recognised the erosion of so-called safeguards in the tiny number of places that have changed the law to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia - countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and the American states of Oregon and Washington," said Saunders. "We know the Deputies in Guernsey will now turn their attention to the real issues facing disabled people and the terminally ill on the Island, ensuring equality of access to the very best health care available and how to fund this." 
Judicial News
South Korea: Supreme Court Reviewing Abortion Ban
South Korea's Constitutional Court is reviewing its 1953 law banning abortion. Under the law, women procuring an abortion are faced with up to a year in jail and doctors faced stiffer penalties, including up to two years in jail. The case has been brought by a South Korean doctor who was prosecuted for conducting almost 70 abortions in two years. The government appears divided, with ministers on both sides of the issue. The Ministry of Gender Equity echoed the call the repeal the ban while the Defense Ministry said the current law is "of great public interest" to protect the "lives of embryos". At the same time, South Korea is facing a critically low birth rate. In September 2016, the Ministry of Health began cracking down on doctors who perform abortions, suspending their licenses for up to a year.
Mexico: Supreme Court Rules Abortion after Rape a Reproductive Right
The Mexican Supreme Court issued two rulings in the same week in favor of abortion following rape. Two separate cases featured young women who sought abortions after being raped and denied the procedure. The Court ruled unanimously that the denial of abortion was a violation of reproductive rights in both cases. Abortion groups are now calling for the implementation of these rulings at the state level throughout Mexico.

 
 
Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues
Advancing global respect and dignity for life through law and policy.

In this issue:

 
Focus on International Organizations
United Nations
Deputies in Argentina Vote to Legalize Abortion with Help from the UN
UN Report Takes Aim at US Abortion Regulations and Trump Policies
 
Organization of American States
Pro-Life Action by US
 
International Pressure for Abortion
Ireland: First Country to Vote for Legalized Abortion on Demand 
 
Defending Life
US: HHS Revises Title X Policy to Stop Family Planning Funds for Abortion
 
Executive News
Finland: No Tolerance for Foreign Minister's Pro-Life Views

Legislative News
Portugal: Parliament Rejects Bills Legalizing Euthanasia
AU: Abortion 'Safe Access Zone' Bill Passes NSW Legislative Council
AU: Queensland to Debate Change in Abortion Law
Guernsey: Parliament Defeats Proposal to Legalize Assisted Suicide
 
Judicial News
South Korea: Reviewing Abortion Ban
Mexico: Two Supreme Court Judgments Support Abortion after Rape

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