New York, February (SEMlac Special). – The right to free contraceptives is part and parcel of the current election campaign in the U.S.
Last February 17, California Republican Representative Darrell Issa organized public hearings by an Ad Hoc Committee on Freedom of Religion, which had been established a year ago. The idea now is to show that such a freedom is being violated by Barack Obama’s administration.
Mexico City, October 2011 (SEMlac Special). – Legal restrictions on abortion put women’s lives at risk all over the world, making them resort to extremely dangerous, illegal practices.
Rafaela Schiavon, representative of IPAS-Mexico, indicated that 45 million unwanted pregnancies are terminated every year in the world, including 27 million under legal, safe conditions, and 18 million under unsafe, life-threatening circumstances.
“Against this background, some 68,000 women die every year over illegal abortion procedures,” she added.
“Women’s sexual, reproductive and human rights have been ignored by the Supreme Court of Justice in the states of Baja California and San Luis Potosí ,” she stressed.
Last September 28 (International Day on Abortion De-criminalization), a Court ruling made it possible for 17 states to amend the relevant, progressive legislation and consider the zygote as a person with civil and administrative rights.
This has led to opposition to emergency contraception and artificial insemination, and to rejection of abortion due to rape, serious mother-health condition, and/or congenital malformations.
“IPAS believes that the reason(s) for abortion can be easily checked,” she stressed.
“We cannot close our eyes to forced sex (rape), unsafe sex (no contraceptive use), contraceptive failure, and other self-evident facts (of an economic, social, physical and mental nature),” she emphasized.
A report by the Alan Güttmacher Institute indicated that 29 unsafe abortions every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 are performed in Latin America, as compared to only three every 1,000 women in Europe every year.
“The number of mother deaths in countries where abortion is not legalized is 30 times higher than in nations where it is,” she recalled.
“Over 3,000 women in Mexico die every year as a result of unsafe abortions,” she remarked.
Estimates show that 35 every 1,000 reproductive-age women in the world resort to abortion on a yearly basis. The lowest rates (10 every 1,000 women) are seen in countries like the Netherlands , Belgium and Switzerland .
The rate stands at 50 in Chile and Peru , where the relevant legislation is extremely restrictive, and at 80 in Romania , Cuba and Vietnam , where laws are rather liberal, but access to contraception is very limited.
In this context, there is a pressing need to develop comprehensive policies to provide information to and do prevention work mainly for poor, young women, experts feel.
While some people favor the idea of abstinence and “natural regulation”, others highlight the importance of education, increased access to contraceptives, and family planning.
Six every 100 women respondents confessed they had been raped; most of them when they were 10 to 20 years old only, an IPAS survey revealed.
A report of the National Women’s Institute indicated that around 120,000 local women are raped every year and 10 percent get pregnant as a result of such acts.
District Attorney Offices estimate that only 10 percent of raped women report their cases to the police and only a few do so right after these acts. “This does not make it possible to use emergency contraception to avoid pregnancy,” a lawyer said.
Notwithstanding the implementation of family programs since the early 1970s, merely 40 every 100 local teenagers are using contraceptives, 57 every 100 young women go to school, and 52 every 100 indigenous women learn how to read and write.
“There has actually been a major decline in contraceptive use over the last 10 years,” she recalled.
“The rate has merely stood at 10 percent over such a period,” she added.
No contraceptive method is 100-percent effective against pregnancy. In fact, contraceptive failure leads to over 26 million unwanted pregnancies a year internationally, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated.
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are currently spending significant amounts of financial and human resources on unsafe-abortion-related complications, it added. They include hemorrhage, severe bleeding, and uterus perforation and/or tearing.
Costs under this heading exceed 2.5 billion dollars a year, a local survey showed.
They can be significantly reduced (by 720,000 dollars) applying modern, safe technology and administering effective drugs.
Montevideo, October 2011 (SEMlac Special). – Strategies seeking to protect and secure women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Latin America have not always been successful.
Cristina González, a Colombian medical doctor and international consultant, told SEMlac that Uruguayan citizens have for years hoped to see abortion finally de-criminalized.
The local parliament had made some progress along these lines in 2008, but President Tabaré Vázquez vetoed the move. The issue will be taken up later this year, when Senator Mónica Xavier sponsored bill will be reviewed and hopefully passed.
A survey by Factum Corporation showed that 56 percent of the population favors the idea of legalizing abortion.
Data reveal that around 45,000 babies are born and 33,000 abortions are performed every year in the country.
”Countries of the region have been promoting strategies aimed at providing women with access to safe abortion,” she recalled.
“They include legalizing this procedure, establishing new regulations, and implementing risk and damage reduction policies,” she added.
“Some of these strategies focus on legalizing abortion only in the first 12 weeks of gestation, while some others seek to de-criminalize it in cases of rape, life-threatening events, etc.,” she emphasized.
“These strategies help women, one way or another, decide for abortion if they have other important projects (like education and professional development) in mind,” she noted.
The current local criminal code authorizes abortion only if women’s lives are at risk, if they have become pregnant as a result of rape, or if they are extremely poor.
“This is only provided for in theory because there are no specialized facilities available to women under such circumstances,” she regretted.
“The provisions were developed in 1938, but they have never been truly implemented,” she remarked.
“The above-mentioned strategies are based on human rights considerations and aim to guarantee women’s access to safe abortion,” she indicated.
“When the code mentions pregnant women’s life-threatening events, it should be understood to mean threats to women’s comprehensive health, including biological, psychological and social well-being,” she remarked.
“We have a Latin American publication on legalized abortion and human rights to help healthcare professionals make appropriate decisions,” she said.
“Other strategies aim to promote massive use of manual intra-uterine aspiration, abortion-drug use, and damage reduction,” she added.
“The latter, which is based on counseling services for safe abortion, was introduced in the health sector in 2004 and passed into law in 2008,” she recalled.
“This damage-reduction strategy does not seem relevant to me within the Uruguayan context,” she stressed.
“There has been a truly democratic debate over abortion here in the last six years,” she emphasized.
“It played a role in the past, but the country should now move toward de-criminalizing abortion altogether,” she remarked.
“I am aware of the fact that access to abortion drugs like Misoprostol is still being restricted here,” she regretted.
La República daily newspaper indicated last August 3 that local gynecologists recommend Misoprostol for abortion, but they do not prescribe it. And they perform no legally authorized abortion procedures either,” she noted.
“Against this background, there is a need to further streamline abortion requirements,” she concluded.
Intergenerational conflicts can generate family violence.
Yaíma Barcárcel, a 38-year-old anesthesiologist living in the capital city, blames her mother-in-law for her divorce six years ago.
"I had just started working after graduation at a hospital in downtown Havana, quite far from where we were living. I got back home very late at night and always found my mother-in-law, who lived somewhere else, making dinner for my husband Mario. "He can't eat so late," she usually said.
"I discussed this issue with him on several occasions and he always told me I was right, but he never dared to tell her anything, fearing to hurt her," she indicated.
Mirta Yáñez, Caridad Atencio, and Nara Mansur have just been given the 2010 Annual Literary Critique Award.
Instituted by the Cuban Book Institute, the award was granted to seven out of 121 nominees.
Sangra por la herida (Bleeding Wound) was written by Yáñez, a prizewinning poetess, essayist, journalist and storyteller.
El libro de los sentidos (The Book of Senses) is a bold description of Atencio's life, as colleague Charo Guerra put it. She is a poetess and essayist.
Most Latin American migrants are women. Over two million women have left their countries of origin (1.6 million for the United States and 400,000 for other nations) in the last couple of years.
Around 150,000 women have left Mexico for the U.S. only in the 2006-2011 period. Along with Peruvians, Colombians, Bolivians and Ecuadorians, these women are working mainly as babysitters and caregivers in countries like Spain, Chile and Venezuela.
More than five million Mexican women are estimated to have settled down in the U.S. Most of them stay there for good and just a few get back home, leaving their children there.
Migrant women are desperately looking for better living and working conditions, and are often employed under terrible conditions or are poorly paid at sweatshops, hospitals, hotels and restaurants.
Around 2,000 indigenous people are involved in a 21-day, 600-kilometer-long March for Mother Earth.
Speaking at a Global Forum on Life and Environmental Justice in Cancun (Mexico) last December, Bolivian President Evo Morales urged to redress the current world environmental situation to save the planet.
He has been promoting, however, the construction of a road through indigenous land and a national park (Isidoro Sécure). This area is known as TIPNIS.
The latest population census in 2001 showed that there were 12,000 people living there. The park covers 1.2 million hectares and provides habitat to 108 mammal, 400 bird, 53 amphibian, 127 invertebrate, and 3,000 flora species.
Associating gender violence only with actions against women can help conceal other forms of abuse.
Social psychologists Mareelen Díaz and Yohanka Valdés raised this issue at a Meeting on Family, Gender and Equity held last September 16, at the National Psychological and Sociological Research Center (CIPS) in Havana.
The event was sponsored by the Oscar A. Romero (OAR) Reflection Group, a Christian organization that has been fighting violence and promoting a culture of peace for over 25 years.
"The idea has been to identify acts of gender inequality and violence under local conditions," Valdés indicated.
Men for Diversity (MxD), a group that has been defending the rights of people of all sexual orientations in Cuba, has asked local authorities to review and pass the new Family Code without further delay.
The bill in question includes several amendments to the Code that has been in force since 1975 and recommends legal recognition of same-sex unions.
A Ministry of Justice report recently indicated that the date for such a review by parliament has not been finalized.
A representative of MxD said that the Federation of Cuban Women, which has been promoting the bill along with the National Association of Cuban Jurists, has already examined, adopted and submitted the bill to the Ministry of Justice, which is expected to present the final version to parliament.
While just a few people on the island publicly admit being racist, social prejudices and discriminatory attitudes continue to be the rule these days.
Jokes and proverbs are still being used to discriminate against the so-called people of color.
All these issues were raised and carefully reviewed at a Meeting on Science, Race and Society, which was held last September 7 at the Dulce M. Loynaz Cultural Center in Havana.
"When you cannot directly make somebody feel inferior, you crack a joke about that person," said Zuleika Romay, director of the Cuban Book Institute and an experienced communication expert.