In Poland, women in black strike for women’s and human rights

In Poland last week women went on a general strike, dressed in black. Thousands demonstrated in the streets of cities to defend their remaining right to abortion as the government pushed for a total ban on abortion. The concept of women’s general strike was first used in Iceland on October 25, 1975 when 90% of women stopped working, taking care of children, cooking etc. They wanted equality and were fed up with low wages, low consideration, low everything. The entire country stopped. The effect was profound. The Polish women were after the same effect, fed up with seeing political and economic manipulations control their sexual and reproductive rights and putting their lives in jeopardy.

Since Poland transitioned to a capitalist system, reproductive rights including the right to abortion have been the recurrent issue, and women have seen their rights steadily reduced. Women in Poland won the right to abortion for social reasons in 1956. Nina Sankari for 50-50 magazine, recounts the work of Maria Jaszczuk, the MP who sponsored the original bill. She put in the public debate the crude reality of women’s right to decide for their lives, breaking the code of silence. At the time, more than 300 000 illegal abortions were practiced a year with 80 000 of them ending up in the hospital leading to a 2% death toll. Thanks to this bill, Polish women had enjoyed this reproductive right for over 36 years. But the so called democratic process gloated about by the capitalist order demanded the end of this basic women’s right to decide for themselves. Nina Sankari recalls that in 2007 shortly before her death at 90 years old, Maria Jaszczuk expressed her sadness to see all these basic women’s rights being wiped out.

Nina Sankari notes the irony of the infamous democratic transition bringing the Catholic Church with its conservative neoliberal allies back to power. In 1989, when the new constitution was being designed, the Church vetoed the concept of separation of church and state, of laicity or neutrality of the church. The Polish Catholic establishment was ready to play a crucial political role in the country.

Consequently, in 1993 one of the most regressive anti-abortion laws in Europe passed, allowing abortion in only three cases: if the woman’s life is in danger, if the fetus has serious disabilities, and if the pregnancy is the result of a rape including incestuous rape. But that was not enough for the conservative forces led by Jarosław Kaczinski. He is the leader of Law and Justice party that won the elections in October 2015.

Currently, the xenophobic religious neoliberal right is looming large in Europe. The current Polish leadership is in line with Viktor Orbán’s leadership in Hungary proclaiming religious notions on family as divinely imposed and reducing public services, especially when women’s rights are at risk. These changes constitute a breach in European laws. Recently three cases from Poland have been challenged in the European Court of Human Rights. The latter found that women and girls in Poland “encountered unacceptable obstacles to access to safe and legal abortion.” It put Poland in violation with its responsibilities and obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Malta and Ireland are also in this position. Meanwhile, no official actions have changed this status quo. Only women and men’s street demonstrations have brought change.

This time, the Polish women’s strike defeated the bill that would have led to a total ban on abortion, including jail time for women seeking abortion and for doctors who would dare help them. As Gauri Van Gulik of Amnesty International said, “This is a huge victory for the millions of women and girls who mobilized, showed their fury, and successfully blocked a law which would have taken away their rights and endangered their health.”

This victory should lead to more actions in support of women’s rights and human rights. Each year in Poland, 1000 legal abortions are performed while an estimated 150, 000 clandestine abortions occur behind closed doors, not to forget that the lethal danger of clandestine abortion is spread according to social lines. The reduction of women’s rights accompanies many social and political restrictions. The women of Poland have shown the possibilities to counter the rise of the deadly combination of xenophobic, neoliberal and religious power.

 

(Photo Credit 1: The Guardian / Czarek Sokolowski / AP) (Photo Credit 2: BBC / EPA)

(This article is part of the on-going collaboration between Women In and Beyond the Global and 50-50 magazine. Click here for 50-50’s coverage of Poland’s women in black.)

El Salvador built a special hell for women, Ilopango Women’s Prison

Ilopango Women’s Prison

El Salvador built as special hell for women, formally called el Centro de Readaptación para Mujeres de Ilopango, the Ilopango Center for Women’s Readaptation. Call it the Ilopango Women’s Prison. For the last few months, this prison has, and has not, received some notoriety because of El Salvador’s draconian anti-abortion laws, which have landed Las 17 in Ilopango. The story of the 17 women sent into the hell of Ilopango for having suffered miscarriages is important, as is the story of all the women in Ilopango. The abuse of the 17 is a crime, as is the abuse of all the women prisoners in Ilopango.

Starting in 1998, El Salvador banned all abortions, period. Today, El Salvador is one of six countries to ban all abortions. Additionally, El Salvador opened hunting season on pregnant women, so that any woman who suffered a miscarriage was suspected of both having had an abortion and of having committed murder. Between 2000 and 2014, over 250 women were reported to the police. 147 women were prosecuted. 49 women were convicted – 26 for murder and 23 for abortion. A People’s Tribunal is going on right now to investigate the cases of three of those women: Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez Aldana, sentenced to 30 years and released after seven years; Maria Teresa Rivera, in for 40 years for aggravated homicide; Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, sentenced to 30 years.

Salvadoran women’s groups, such as the Citizen’s Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic and Ethical Abortion and Abortion for Reasons of Fetal Anomaly and the Feminist Collective, have waged a mighty campaign. Periodically, the case of Las 17 is picked up globally, and so the struggle continues.

The assault on pregnant women, the absolute and total ban, is predictably partial: “The majority of the cases were referred to the police from hospitals—specifically, from public hospitals. Indeed, not a single hospital report to police came from the country’s private practice doctors or private hospitals.” So, the “totality” of the ban applies only to those women dependent on the public health system.

Of equal importance is the prison itself: “Ilopango is squalid and cramped: Overcrowding stands at nearly 1,000 percent, according to some estimates. Women sleep some 40 to a cell; one prison guard told me that over 100 children under five live there with their mothers.” Ilopango was designed for 225 women, maximum. Last year it held 2000. Women sleep five to a bed, or on the floor. Water is scarce, and medical care even scarcer. Prisoners rely on their mostly impoverished families for pretty much everything.

These are the numbers of violence against women: Las 17 and 2000 in a space for 225. For the women who suffered miscarriages, the viciousness of the State is a crime. For the women, all the women, who ended up in Ilopango, the sentence of death-in-life is the crime, not abortion, not miscarriage, not this or that act, not being a woman. Ilopango is the crime.

Meanwhile, last month, Flor Sánchez was dumped in jail for the `crime’ of having endured a miscarriage.

 

(Photo Credit: New York Times / Meridith Kohut)

Women are attacked in the mirror of reproduction, and where is the outrage?

 

I often hear women in France wondering how it is possible that women’s access to abortion or to safe delivery is so outrageously compromised and mostly a source of revenue rather than inalienable rights in the United States. The current political landscape might help them, and us, understand.

Once again women and their bodies occupy the center stage of the presidential elections in the United States. While the last attempt to defund Planned Parenthood failed to pass, there were still too many votes in favor. The issue continues to obsess the GOP candidates and allows them to stigmatize women. They used the usual recipe to fabricate a scandal, this time targeting Planned Parenthood. They made deceptive images in order to emotionally manipulate a large portion of the population, brush aside the truth and reality, and focus on the anti women’s reproductive rights credo. The videos were assembled to manufacture false images of the use of “for-money tissues” coming from aborted embryos; ironically these accusations came from the candidates who defend profiteering at any cost. Actually, women who had had an abortion donated tissues for research on diseases such as Parkinson, Alzheimer, or orphan diseases, but does it really matter? The press was reluctant to explain the scam.

Planned Parenthood provides health care to women. One out of five have had recourse to their services because nothing exists for them in a for-profit medical system. This is not only about abortion. Across the United States, pregnant women are also mistreated: sent to prison, denied basic rights, and having no labor protection and no legally supported maternity leave.

It seems that nothing can impede the United States Republican candidates from bawling out injurious slurs toward minorities and women, while keeping silent about the reality of the violence of their economic views. But this time the farce is grotesque as well as threatening. As witnessed by the first GOP debate, the current US conservative battle for the primaries sheds light on the debacle of “democratic” debates in the cradle of neoliberal conservatism.

I asked in France what if the shocking Sarkozy or the heinous Le Pen had said something similar to launch their campaigns. Most said that this would not be accepted, not that there is no anti immigration sentiments. They said it would have triggered more mockery as well as indignation. Additionally, the response coming from the numerous associations that work on immigration rights and immigrant women’s rights would have been strong and irrefutable and accompanied with legal actions.

The question of reproductive rights is also shaped differently as deliveries and abortions are free, and pregnant women’s labor rights are still guaranteed in France as well as in many other countries, and the commitment to these rights, in France and across Europe, is robust, and again a vast range of associations is watching.

For example, when the conservative Spanish Prime Minister attempted to reduce reproductive rights in Spain, women and men from all over Europe went to the streets in support of Spanish women’s rights, thanks to these very associations, and forced the withdrawal of the bill.

However, women’s rights have been threatened in relation to the restructuring of the European Union, as we saw in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and France. This signifies another form of violence against women’s bodies, taking the oppressed body, the migrant’s body, hostage.

In the United States, the threat of these attacks against women persists in a distractive form. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore has explained, energy is going to be spent fighting each scandalous initiative while the source of the problem will be kept blurred. The debt economy that works with violence, stigmatizing women and people of color and/or lower social status, is forgotten in these debates.

Women are particularly targeted. Many women in the United States, including in my own family, have struggled during pregnancy to keep employment, to have pregnancy health particularities respected, to keep 100 % of their salary, or to pay for delivery.

Where is the outrage? Where are the images of the united colors of precarity, of women living precariously?

The neoliberal order bathes in this spectacle, and the reality of life disappears. Let’s keep in mind that the state of the status of women and women’s reproductive rights mirrors the fate of most of the population.

 

 

(Photo Credit 1: Javier Barbancho / Reuters / Landov / AlJazeera)

(Photo Credit 2: Marlon Headen of Headen Photography / RH Reality Check)

Pregnancy or abortion: Either way, women face violence

In the United States, violence is often the current reality for women seeking reproductive services. Access to abortion is becoming more difficult, more costly, and almost always associated with numerous procedures or circumstances that shame women. Giving birth is similarly costly and often a place for extraordinary controlling power over the women’s devaluated bodies. When women attempt to make decisions about their own bodies, they are rarely trusted as intelligent human beings, especially when they are women of color or/and of lower income status.

Medical and legal institutions embody the authority of the state. They hold the right and ability to decide for women and to send them to jail for not complying with orders over their own bodies. Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin recently provided a long list of women, across the country, who experienced violence during pregnancy. Each time, their lives were judged inconsequential compared to the life of the fetus they were carrying. The process is simple: the woman’s body is scrutinized, the doctor or medical personnel denounce the woman to the legal power when she demands other options other than induction or c section, then the judge orders and the fetus existence and rights overweigh the women’s.

Since Paltrow and Flavin published an important study last year revealing the outrageous inhuman treatments of women at the time of reproduction, including incarceration of women, nothing has really changed. Judges still order c-sections on women, and women are forcibly taken to the operation room often handcuffed. The very real feticide laws are the pretext for these decisions as well as a misinterpretation of Roe v Wade, which results in women losing their rights.

The number of forced procedures on pregnant women is astonishing. For example, in Florida, Jennifer Goodall wanted to have a vaginal birth after previous c-sections. Her decision was informed. She received a letter from the chief financial officer of the Hospital that dictated a cesarean surgery to deliver her baby against her informed wish to have a vaginal delivery. Jennifer was forced to the operation room after a judge ordered the c-section.

In New York, Rinat Dray experienced similar violence as she was delivering her baby. As she was laboring, the doctor told her that the delivery was progressing fine, “but he just didn’t have all day.” She did not want the c-section he ordered, she begged for mercy. The doctor responded that he wasn’t bargaining, told Rinat Dray to be silent, and performed the c-section.

In privatized medical care, finance and profit are key. Cesarean procedures are moneymakers. A recent study shows that physician mothers receive fewer c-sections than equally educated women. While the study establishes the relationship between social status, economic status, and treatment, by framing the issue as a simple choice of treatment, it misses the violent control over women that is inscribed in the neoliberal political economy of health care in the United States. Furthermore, deliveries should not be considered treatments, as pregnancy does not require treatment but assistance. Instead, there is a constant fear factor that is played on women. Childbirth has evolved to become a surgical event in the United States as Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English noted years ago. Not to forget the differential of care that is linked to citizenship and insurance membership, undocumented immigrants are simply barred from medical assistance in many states.

Paltrow and Flavin argue that if “we want to end these unjust and inhumane arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women we need to stop focusing only on abortion…. Start working to protect the personhood of pregnant women.” There is no need to oppose abortion to pregnancy, even if many pregnant women in these cases are opposed to abortion. The questions are neither about the technicality of delivery nor about safety as the US has the worst records in infant and maternal mortality and one of the highest rates of forced procedures (32.8% c-section) in the developed world. While the WHO does not provide exact recommendations, it suggests that a caesarean delivery rate of 15% should be taken as a threshold not to be exceeded.

At issue is State legitimized violence against women, with guaranteed immunity to the State and its representatives. It is also about the control of women’s bodies at the time of reduced public services and fewer protections against market hegemony. Women face a medical criminal justice system that is growing, and the tentacles of which reach ever more deeply into every nook and cranny of women’s reproductive bodies.

 

(Photo Credit: Change.org/ImprovingBirth.org)

Forty years after passing abortion laws, France reaffirms all women’s right to abortion!

 

Simone Veil addresses French National Assembly, November 26, 1974

Forty years ago, on November 26th, 1974 France’s Parliament adopted Simone Veil’s bill to guarantee access to legal abortion for women under certain restrictions. Simone Veil emphasized at the time that abortion was a hypocritical social issue since only the poorer women were penalized by the restrictions. These restrictions have since been removed to become a right for all women of all ages and free of charge in France. This past Wednesday, November 26th 2014, the French Parliament adopted a resolution to reaffirm the fundamental right to abortion for all women in France, in Europe and in the world.

The resolution added that women had fundamental right to control over their own bodies, as it is the condition for the construction of real equality between women and men and for a society of progress. The resolution also included the importance of sexual education and free access to contraception and abortion. Finally, the resolution expressed France’s European as well as international engagement for universal access to family planning.

Forty years ago there were only 9 women in the Parliament and 481 men. Simone Veil admitted recently that she had not imagined at the time, the hatred that her law was going to generate. Last Wednesday, only 7 representatives voted against the resolution. Though still too many, this is significant progress from the 189 representatives who voted against it in 1974.

Nonetheless, before the presentation of the resolution, the anti abortion lobby led by the Foundation Lejeune asked their followers to flood targeted center, right and extreme right representatives with a sample email. It contained twenty words with explicit phrases such as he/she “would not comprehend that a national representative would celebrate as a right, an attack on human life.” The Foundation Lejeune says that there is no support within the United Nations framework to claim the right to abortion; therefore they contest the universal right of women to control over their own bodies.

In the current context of worldwide restrictions on women’s rights, the French Family Planning did not want to take any risk and so organized along with other groups a response to these attacks, asking women and men to voice their support for access to reproductive services. They also reminded the representatives that clandestine abortions result in 8 million women being seriously injured, with 47 000 dying every year in the world. Forty years ago, women went en masse to the parliament to support Veil’s bill; this time they used the Internet.

This resolution signals that rights for women have to be reaffirmed over and over, especially in a more conservative Europe and world pressed by neoliberal politics that target women and the poor. The current trend is to reconfigure passed victories as we see happening in the United States, in Spain, in Italy, in the UK and the list is long. Even in France where the resolution was passed, restructuration of the health care services demanded by austerity measures are endangering access to such reproductive services. All this goes hand in hand with an increase of violence against women.

At least, this resolution institutionalized the significance of women’s reproductive rights despite the constant attacks, and that in itself is a good and important political initiative!

 

(Photo Credit: French Government)

We had an abortion, we’re fine, thank you!

Making access to abortion more difficult is a way to change the nature of women’s lives. It also unsettles the social position of women in those countries that in the sixties and seventies, after a century or so of illegality, legalized access to contraception and to abortion.

In Texas, a recent court decision authorized HB2, a bill designed to make access to abortion more humiliating and difficult, even impossible for the most vulnerable women. Last week Democracy Now broadcast from San Antonio, “the last outpost for legal abortion in Texas,” in order to focus on this new attack on women’s lives. The shows featured Jeffrey Hons, CEO of Planned Parenthood in Texas, and Lindsay Rodriguez, President of the Lilith Fund, which provides financial support to women in Texas who cannot afford an abortion.

Responding to Senator Wendy Davis’ revelation in her new campaign memoir that she had an abortion, Hons explained, “A woman should be allowed all the privacy to have this healthcare and not have to reveal it to every one and then, at the same time…it’s as though when a woman will have the courage to share a story, that it humanizes it, and it makes everyone realize that these decisions are very complicated, very personal, very difficult…”

It was also very difficult also for a young woman in Pennsylvania to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, because services were too far and too expensive. Her mother went to the Internet and found a way to help her daughter. She purchased mifepristone (formerly called RU-486) and misoprostol pills, which was what she could afford. For that `crime’, the mother was sent to jail. She had no access to suitable services and yet was denounced by the hospital, condemned by the judicial system and pilloried by the media.

In Texas and other places where abortion is formally legal, abortion has remained taboo as if it were an unspeakable last result or an impossible choice for women. Women are meant to be ashamed because [a] they have violated the privacy of the household and [b] they are women seeking reproductive health. In recent years, safety and security rhetoric has led to the re-emergence of the argument that endangering the life of the mother justifies curtailing her right to control over her body.

On September 27, 2014, Sabine Lambert addressed these issues at the “Feminist Struggles and Reflections to Advance Society” forum in Paris. Lambert belongs to the collective group “We had an abortion, we’re fine, thank you” (nous avons avorté, nous allons bien, merci). The group formed to create spaces to liberate women from the politics of guilt and shame regarding their decisions by exchanging stories and insights with other women. Instead of leaving abortion in the private sphere, they present abortion as a possible occurrence in women’s lives that carries no particular shame or guilt. After all a woman spends more time avoiding pregnancy than being pregnant.

In France, abortion is free, a recognized as a right, and still relatively easy to access. Nevertheless, it is often described as a traumatizing event carrying terrible consequences for the mental well being of women. In recent years, these descriptions have become more prevalent. The idea that abortion should be averted by any means has prevailed, despite the fact that abortion has always existed and contraception will never be an absolute means of reproductive control.

In France and across Europe, the notion of post-abortive syndrome has surfaced. This so-called syndrome has no scientific support. Nevertheless, a well known professor of medicine wrote in a popular medical publication that scientific studies should not be necessary to prove that a woman who had an abortion is inclined to psychological distress and extreme suffering. In Texas, a Republican delegate candidate has argued that women who have undergone abortion are prone to drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide. Both doctor and delegate are wrong.

Women who have gone through abortions know better. According to Sabine Lambert, we need to go beyond the right to control our body and recognize that our mind is also ours. On her group’s website many women have written that they felt ashamed for not feeling negative after their abortions. Describing their experiences, which were not always easy, the women say they do not regret anything. Many say that in their mind the result of a sexual encounter was not the fetus. Sabine suggested that the image of the monstrous woman underlies the stigmatization of abortion. The woman who had an abortion and feels fine commits a double transgression. First she refuses maternity, and second she’s ok. She deviates twice from the patriarchal feminine social norm.

Sabine’s group organized to demand a woman’s right to abort with head held high. The right to abort should not be limited to begging for the crumbs of tolerance or struggling for a loosening of the noose around the neck. There is no shame or guilt for the women in Texas, Pennsylvania or France. We should demand respect for their decision, as we should recognize their struggle as political, not private.

 

(Photo credit: IVG, je vais bien, merci!)

From Texas to Paris, women fight for their lives

From Texas to Pennsylvania to France, women’s rights have to be re affirmed. Moreover, the engagement implies defending an idea of society that goes beyond the right to abortion or women’s right to control their bodies.

In September, in Paris’ City Hall, the forum “Feminist Struggles and Reflections to Advance Society” summed up the current need to switch to the offensive. The Deputy Mayor of Paris opened the forum recalling that feminist struggles always upset the men and women who want to go further in social regression at times of economic crisis. Maya Surduts, President of the National Coordination of Associations for the Right to Abortion and Contraception, concurred, “We are at a turning point. The status of women is being called into question in this society.”

Maternity and the right to decide are under attack as is as the conception of women as full citizens, in France and in the United States.

In the United States, two recent cases of mistreatment of women show that an individualistic, utilitarian, patriarchal, neoliberal idea of society normalizes cruelty.

A woman in rural Pennsylvania has been sentenced from 9 to 18 months in jail for providing, through an online vendor, RU 486 to her 19-year-old daughter, who wanted to end an unwanted pregnancy. The nearest abortion clinic is 75 miles away. The woman was reported to the authorities by the local hospital where they went when her daughter had stronger stomach cramps. The details of the story show the intricate manipulations of events that led to the charge that sent this woman to jail. A state senator commentating on the case accused her of endangering the welfare of a child. It is not clear which child he is referring to. In this judgment, the fact that a fetus is not an unborn child fades away along with the acknowledgment that her daughter is a person and not a womb made to carry children.

She was also charged with “offering medical consultation about abortion without a license”. The daughter did not have health insurance, and the mother and the family seemed to have limited resources. The reality is that the mother had no information about abortion and, working in this vacuum of respect for rights to help her daughter, used the Internet to cut costs. The judge ruled, “This was somebody taking life and law into their own hands”. In fact, this situation is created by a system that plays with women’s lives without any respect for the latter. It works by creating a halo of shame and guilt around the woman, a halo that obscures the shame that the state has for not fulfilling its responsibilities.

Meanwhile in Texas last week, a court decision authorized HB2 to go into effect. This bill imposes restrictions on abortion centers, demanding them to meet the standards of hospital surgery departments. There is no medical reason for that requirement. Nevertheless, it forced 13 clinics to close immediately.

Constraints imposed on women who decide to have an abortion are also medically unnecessary. Now, a woman must arrange four visits to the clinic with the same doctor in a very rigorous timing. She must undergo an unnecessary and invasive vaginal probe ultrasound. Then she has to listen to the description of the development of a fetus, completing her physical torture with a psychological one.

With this measure, women from the western part of Texas will have to travel up to 500 miles round trip to an abortion clinic in San Antonio, the last area where the eight remaining clinics are located. The situation’s worse for the large population of people who live in the Rio Grande Valley without documentation or who have work permits that allow very limited travel. Meanwhile, immigrant women will have to go through immigration check points to reach an abortion clinic, basically depriving immigrant women from this area of their rights.

From the United States to Europe, new measures and laws add devastating constraints on women. In Europe, austerity measures stripped women of their way of life, work, and access to public services, most notably in Greece.

Although in France abortion is free of charge and guaranteed by law, a certain rationale of profitability combined with austerity measures has made access to abortion centers and hospitals trickier. Forced restructuration has closed many locations where women had access to reproductive services. While the Pennsylvania and Texas cases would be inconceivable in France for now, Maya sees the attacks on labor laws and on public services as the point of entry to make women the first to be harmed and exploited. She emphasized that immigrant women are always in the forefront. She added that these situations are unacceptable and that it is time to retake the initiative to defend the rights that protect the majority of the population.

Alert: No time to rest. Women’s rights are still not rights!

In the 21st century, women are still disembodied bodies.The US Supreme Court just ruled against a buffer zone around medical/abortion centers that could have made the trip for women to reproductive care services devoid of abuses and threatening slurs. In addition in many states (such as Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota) access to abortion services is technically rendered impossible. Then, the Hyde Amendment still undermines the promise of Roe v Wade. In addition, even pregnant women may feel that their fetuses come first, as politicians don’t hesitate to declare that women are just host bodies.

In Spain, The Organic Law for the Protection of the life of the conceived and the rights of the pregnant women, first adopted by the Spanish government in December 2013, still threatens women’s rights. In January, this decision immediately triggered European opposition with thousands demonstrating in the streets of European cities and across Spain.

Who thought that the Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy and his ultraconservative government would have withdrawn their bill meant to send back women’s reproductive health to fascist time? They want to have it passed in the parliament in July, counting on the summer distractions.

With this bill, women will lose their right to make decisions about their bodies. 86% of Spanish people oppose this bill. The bill betrays the government’s mandate to not curtail women’s rights, which includes the right to life, dignity and auto-determination as inscribed in the Spanish constitution. These points are what the Politica Feminista Forum, an association of Spanish feminists, are pressing along with the incompatibility of this bill with Resolution 1607 of the European Council, with CEDAW’s recommendation 24 article 31c, with the International Conference on Population and Development and simply with EU laws that stipulates members state should provide safe access to abortion.

Now the attack on women’s reproductive rights is more than a trend. It goes with the doctrine of austerity to curtail public services, with growing inequalities affecting women first, not to forget criminalization of petty offences matched by the increase of police power within countries and at the borders.

One should wonder if reproduction should work like factories, since the same power is attacking labor rights. That must be a dream for neo liberal elite theorists!

Women and men in Spain, and elsewhere, are watching and acting. For Spain a petition has been circulating.

Active solidarity is needed to support resisting people in Spain, in the United States and anywhere women’s rights are compromised on the ground of morality that in fact defends financial profitability for the elite. That is not what a human society should be.

Please consider some possible actions:

http://www.change.org/es/peticiones/presidente-de-la-comisión-de-justicia-congreso-de-los-diputados-8-razones-jurídicas-contra-el-anteproyecto-de-reforma-de-la-regulación-del-aborto-de-20-12-13?utm_medium=email&utm_source=notification&utm_campaign=new_pet

or

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR41/002/2014/ar/f3c19601-5af8-4226-b071-65652f99fb5d/eur410022014en.pdf

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.forumpoliticafeminista.org)

Nowhere to go: Women and migrants fight for their rights

Recently, the Spanish government made headlines when it tried to sharply curtail women’s reproductive rights. Now, another set of human and civil rights is in shambles: the right to be, the right to seek safer grounds.

The European Union has two main points of entry on African land, Ceuta and Melilla. These two cities are Spanish territories on the coast of Morocco. Their existence is linked to the complex history of invasions and establishment of protectorates on Mediterranean shores. The EU has been walling up some of its borders in the South against migrants. In 2005 the EU financed the raising of a double iron curtain 6 meters high around these two Spanish enclaves. The Rajoy government had cutting blades installed on the top of the fence. The EU has also built a 12.5 kilometers wall between Turkey and Greece. Bulgaria is building its own iron curtain.

On February 6, 2013, 200 migrants tried to enter Ceuta. Fourteen died at sea as they tried to get around the fence. After some denial, the Spanish Guardia Civil finally admitted that they had used rubber bullets and tear gas against the migrants. The Minister of Interior Jorge Fernandez Diaz has been vague about these incidents that killed desperate migrants. At first, he denied any involvement or responsibility of the Guardia Civil. Then he recognized the use of riot gear only as a deterrent. Shooting at fragile craft with people onboard who don’t know how to swim is not a deterrent. Remember that, on the other side of the border, Moroccan forces are busily cudgeling migrants.

Ten days later, another 300 migrants forced the gate of the city of Melilla. About 50 were able to go in. They were then sent to temporary camps, where eight died.

In Spain, people were outraged. Within a week, demonstrations to denounce these disguised murders were organized in numerous Spanish cities. Various slogans were shouted: “Natives or foreigners, we’re all the same working class”; “No one is illegal”; and, alluding to the government’s anti abortion stand, “Where are the pro lifers?” The assault on women’s rights and the sealing of the borders are intimately linked.

In these times of global deterritorialization, with climate and economic insecurity, people migrate to escape armed conflict, starvation and misery. The non-negotiable rights to life are easily forgotten.

In the United States, immigration rights and women’s rights have been compromised, even more so recently.

In Greece, with the “debt crisis”, politically motivated violence against women and the increasingly restricted reproductive rights leaving many women without safe delivery or abortion services links with the extreme violence that migrants face at the hands of the police and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn. These various issues developed with the austerity measures brutally imposed by the Troika (the European financial power), and only now finally questioned. They have deeply destabilized every sector of the Greek society, except for the rich and powerful. In Greece, as in Spain, people are demonstrating for human rights, and against fascism.

Economic austerity measures have allowed a state of emergency to administer cruel treatments onto displaced populations. The migrant population that lands on Greek soil escapes one set of dangers only to face another. Despite the EU official commitment to human rights, there is no protection for them, and so they are abandoned in the streets of Athens and eventually attacked by Golden Dawn squads. They are the hidden casualties of the austerity measures.

The common thread that joins these stories is the elusive reliance on a neoliberal vision of the world order that displaces, isolates, impoverishes populations, and in particular women. Migrant rights and women rights are the first victims. If we don’t fight for these rights, we would have nowhere to go.

 

(Image Credit: http://www.4ojos.com)

Mujeres unidas, jamás serán vencidas!

From Madrid to Paris, from London to Berlin and all over Europe, women and men went to the streets to demand respect for women’s rights, including the right to decide to continue or end a pregnancy. These massive demonstrations were a response to the attempt from the Spanish government to curtail women’s rights with an outrageous bill.

In Spain women and men rode the “train of freedom,” to reach the capital. The older participants remembered the time before the first laws in the 80s when women risked their lives for not pursuing an unwanted pregnancy. The younger were afraid for the future of their lives. Men expressed worries for their partners, their daughters. Many were afraid of the moral and social setbacks and the threat of the extreme right rule. After all, the time of Franco dictatorship left its marks on the Spanish population.

Sizeable demonstrations took place in 32 cities in France. Thirteen women politicians from the left to the right, who also recently supported LGBT rights, launched an appeal to the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. They noted that Spain has often led Europe in passing progressive laws that made headway in defense of women’s rights, especially targeting sexual and sexist violence. Spanish law inspired other countries like France in shaping better anti sexist laws to address violence against women.

People who joined or supported the demonstrations know that what is happening in Spain is just one side of a multifaceted battle against women’s rights and public services that is raging across Europe. These rights are social rights.

Annie Ernaux who wrote an iconic book on her experience with abortion when it was illegal, asks, “Is it really unfathomable to imagine a return to clandestine abortion? I have always been convinced that nothing is ever definitely won for women.” What happened to women when their reproductive rights were not respected? “We would see women dying of hemorrhage, septicemia, or losing their uterus” recalled Martine Hatchnel a gynecologist who started working before the Veil abortion law.

As the neoliberal crisis has extended its grip on populations through austerity measures, Europe has experienced a certain hardening on human rights issues and the rise of far right power. However, the Spanish government’s attack on women’s rights has galvanized a stronger opposition than expected. 81 % of Spanish people oppose the bill; throughout Europe support for reproductive rights is increasing. In France these rights have been reinforced in law, social organization, and public support, which is large.

There is a movement that demands that these rights be recognized as nonnegotiable in the EU. For example, Portuguese European deputy Edite Estrela has tried to have sexual and reproductive rights recognized through a vote on her Report on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, which had already been altered with the removal of LGBT sexual rights.  Her report was defeated by only 7 votes, largely because a translation error led to some thirty votes being misdirected. Estrela is appealing the decision. This Report would have broadened the commitment to sexual and reproductive rights within the EU, especially directed toward Ireland, Poland, Spain, Malta and Italy.

Revolt and indignation are brewing across Europe, according to Isabelle Louis, of Paris Planning Familial and one of the organizers of the Paris demonstration. Visibly pregnant, she read the declaration of the French Family Planning in support of sexual and reproductive rights. She said that there was something very important taking place during this demonstration as she observed the varied crowd, men, women and definitely with a trans-European coloration. She saw older women too old to march showing their support from their windows and balconies.

Isabelle Louis concluded that the battle continues and this time she’d like to believe that it could be won!

 

(Photo Credit: L’Humanité)