Voters in Switzerland approved the decriminalization of abortion in a pivotal decision that Swiss Justice Minister Ruth Metzler called a “historic victory for women.” In an effort to challenge a law passed by Swiss lawmakers last year, an anti-abortion coalition brought a referendum before voters Sunday. In a country where 44.1 percent of the population is Catholic – the largest religion in Switzerland – 70 percent of voters approved a proposal to back the law, which calls for the legalization of abortion carried out up to 12 weeks into pregnancy, while 80 percent of voters rejected a second proposal to ban abortion completely. The law will now go into effect October 1, despite criticism from the Roman Catholic Swiss Bishops’ Conference.
Under the current law that dates from 1942, doctors who carry out abortions in Switzerland could face five years in prison, and women receiving abortion services could be sentenced to three years. Abortion, however, is allowed if a continued pregnancy would harm a woman’s physical or mental health. Approximately 13,000 women have abortions every year in regular clinics and though only one woman has been convicted for an abortion-related offense since 1988, five physicians have been convicted in the past nine years for ignoring abortion rules, according to the Associated Press.
In other parts of Europe, Britain, Spain and the Netherlands have the most liberal abortion laws allowing termination to take place up to 22 weeks into the pregnancy, France allows abortion up to 12 weeks, but Italy, Greece, Denmark and Norway sanction a 10-week deadline, according to statistics found at CNN.com. Meanwhile, Portugal, Ireland and Malta have the strictest laws where abortion is virtually banned.
Media Resources: CNN.com, 6/3/02, Associated Press, 6/3/02, New York Times, 6/4/02
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. . . .