European Council Passes Watered Down Conscientious Objection Resolution
Last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a watered down version of a resolution that originally called for restrictions on European doctors' right to withhold referral information from patients seeking abortions. According to a Center for Reproductive Rights press release, the version of the resolution that was approved includes anti-abortion amendments that severely limit its provisions.
The Daily Mail reports that the original resolution would have required all doctors who do not provide abortions to directly refer women to a specific abortion provider. The non-binding resolution also would have encouraged doctors, regardless of their objections, to provide patients with abortions when requested in emergency situations and cases where there is no "equivalent practitioner within a reasonable distance," reported the Daily Mail. Though the resolution is non-binding, the Council could have used its original language to pressure European governments to enforce and improve their conscientious objection laws.
Currently, European conscientious objection guidelines allow doctors to inform patients of their right to seek an abortion elsewhere without providing women with substantive information about where to find such services. The Center for Reproductive Rights states that numerous European countries legally require doctors to refer their patients to another healthcare provider, but there is no evidence as to whether the laws are obeyed. According to the Daily Mail, an estimated 86 percent of doctors refuse to perform abortions in the Lazio region of Italy, an area which includes Rome. The originally proposed resolution required that doctors who object to providing abortions register as objectors and recommended establishing a patient complaint system.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had also passed a resolution two years ago that recommended unrestricted access to abortions in its member states.
Media Resources: Center for Reproductive Rights 10/7/10; Daily Mail 10/5/10
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .