Six Nepalese women die each day from botched illegal abortions according to Panos, an international non-profit organization focusing on the developing world. In October 2001, the Nepalese Lower House of Parliament voted, however, to legalize first trimester abortions and make abortion within 18-weeks of pregnancy legal in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the health of the woman. After four months, though, the National Assembly of Parliament has yet to approve the bill. Abortion rights supporters are now stepping up efforts to get the bill passed, but the struggle is an uphill one.
In addition to challenges faced within the Nepalese government, abortion rights supporters, often associated with family planning clinics, must also overcome the global gag rule, a U.S. policy that prevents clinics receiving U.S. funds from providing, counseling, or promoting abortion even if these activities are funded with separate monies. The Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN) and the Center for Research on Environment Health and Population Activities (CREHPA) have both refused U.S. funds in order to support liberalizing Nepalese abortion laws. According to FPAN Director Dr. Nirmal K. Bista, if he had accepted U.S. funds, “I would be prevented from speaking in my own country…about a healthcare crisis I know first hand.” FPAN lost $250,000 in U.S. funds because of its decision, but Bista is continuing to spread his message. In addition, CREHPA has formed a committee, at the urging of the Nepalese Ministry of Health, to advise the government on measures to end unsafe abortion. Anand Tamang, Director of CREHPA, however predicts, “The global gag rule will [continue to] have a chilling effect as it will discourage NGOs receiving U.S. funds from assisting the Ministry of Health in Sade Motherhood activities, such as public education and advocacy on the proposed abortion law.”
Nepal has the fourth highest maternal death rate in the world. 539 women of reproductive age out of 100,000 die each year from pregnancy-related complications, and the United Nations estimates that 50 percent of these women die from illegal abortions. Desperate women have submitted to abortions performed using sticks or shards of glass, among other horrific methods. Up to 60 percent of women admitted to OB/GYN wards in a Kathmandu hospital suffer from post-botched abortion complications, including hemorrhaging, gangrene, and sepsis. Many of these women will also face criminal charges. A 1997 study showed that 1 in 5 female prisoners in Nepal were imprisoned for abortion.
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. . . .