Legal Abortion in Argentina? A Long Shot Is Suddenly Within Reach


The arrival of an abortion bill in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Argentina’s Congress, is widely seen as a direct outgrowth of a broader women’s rights movement in the country that started in 2015 with a campaign against femicides called “Ni Una Menos,” “Not One Less.”

Hundreds of thousands of women have taken to the streets in recent years to raise awareness about domestic violence and press for stronger laws to protect women.

“The Ni Una Menos movement led to a surge of adherence to the feminist movement and a generalized demand for more equal rights,” said Dora Barrancos, 77, a sociologist at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, a government agency. “This change is very overwhelming.”

For Andrea Schenk, 28, who joined the abortion rights demonstrators outside Congress, the link between Ni Una Menos and the abortion debate unfolding among lawmakers is undeniable.

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Anti-abortion activists demonstrated in Buenos Aires while lawmakers debated an abortion bill on Tuesday.

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Agustin Marcarian/Reuters

“Fighting against femicides led us to fight against all forms of violence against women — and not letting us decide over our bodies is a form of violence,” she said.

The prospect of legalization became more politically plausible earlier this year, when President Mauricio Macri, who opposes legalizing abortion, freed allied lawmakers to “vote their conscience” on the issue.

If the bill does pass — by no means certain — it would be, in part, because of a coalition of unlikely allies in Argentina’s notoriously divided Congress.

The rise in activism among the country’s women encouraged a few female lawmakers who support legalizing abortion to join forces. They include Victoria Donda, a leftist; Brenda Austin, from Mr. Macri’s center-right Cambiemos coalition; Romina del Plá, from the Workers’ Party; and Mónica Macha, an ally of the center-left former president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

“Although we have lots of political differences, we also have a profound agreement on this issue,” Ms. Macha said.

Hundreds of experts and witnesses are scheduled to appear before a special commission that will meet twice a week over the next two months to consider the bill.

Several countries in Latin America allow abortions under limited circumstances, like pregnancy that results from rape or when the mother’s life is threatened. Argentina would become the fourth nation in the region to allow abortion without such restrictions, if the procedure were to be legalized, joining Cuba, Uruguay, Guyana and some parts of Mexico.

Proponents of legalization in Argentina say their main motivation is to save lives. Complications from clandestine abortions account for 18 percent of maternal deaths in the country, making it the leading cause, said Mariana Romero, a researcher at the Center for the Study of the State and Society, a nonprofit organization. In 2016 and 2015, at least 98 women died as a result of botched abortions.

“There are between 45,000 to 60,000 hospitalizations derived from clandestine abortions every year,” said Ms. Austin, the lawmaker from the president’s coalition. “Those who are against legal abortion are in favor of clandestine abortions.”

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Mónica Macha is part of a group of female lawmakers from different parties who have formed an alliance to support legalizing abortion.

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Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

Although women who have been raped or have potentially lethal pregnancy complications are allowed to have abortions in Argentina, few doctors perform the procedure because they are afraid of running afoul of the law.

“In practice those exceptions are not actually honored, and what we see is a near total ban on abortions,” said Salil Shetty, the secretary general of Amnesty International, who visited the country this past week.

Support for legalizing abortion appears to have grown in Argentina in recent years as the Roman Catholic Church has lost clout.

A 2006 survey by the Center for the Study of the State and Society showed 37 percent of Argentines said women should be allowed to have an abortion regardless of the cause, a number that increased to 49 percent in a poll the nonprofit carried out in March.

Another nationwide survey this year by the National University of General San Martín found that about 55 percent of Argentines favor legalizing abortion, although attitudes vary widely by geography.

In the more rural northern provinces, 40 percent are in favor, a sharp contrast with the 67 percent in Buenos Aires.

“There is a very clear correlation: More modern, urban areas are more likely to approve of legalization,” said Lucas Romero, who leads Synopsis, a consultancy.

The high level of support to legalize abortion caught some experts on the issue off-guard.

“The number really surprised me,” said Vanesa Vázquez Laba, head of the gender and sexual diversity department at the National University of General San Martín, referring to the university’s poll. “Evidently, the increased attention to gender violence led the abortion issue to suddenly take a more prominent role in society as a whole.”

Such polling numbers, and the increase in the influence of the abortion rights movement, likely prompted Mr. Macri to assume what amounts to a neutral position as Congress takes up the debate.

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If backers of the measure succeed, Argentina would become the most populous country in Latin America to allow women to terminate pregnancies, in a region where strict abortion laws are the norm.

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Tomas F. Cuesta/Associated Press

“As I’ve said more than once, I’m pro-life,” Mr. Macri said in his annual speech before Congress on March 1. “But I’m also in favor of the mature and responsible debates that we owe ourselves as Argentines.”

Church leaders have been vocal in their opposition to the bill, and they have recently argued that improving sex education in schools is a better strategy for addressing unwanted pregnancies.

The first legislative hearing on the issue this month was unusually calm by the standards of Argentina’s rancorous Congress. Hoping to keep acrimony to a minimum, Daniel Lipovetzky, the government-allied congressman who will lead the debate in committee and is in favor of abortion rights, insisted that all questions to experts be submitted in writing.

Outside Congress, a smaller group of protesters urged lawmakers to listen to the “voice that is never heard,” as they clapped to the sound of a heartbeat and danced to songs celebrating life.

“No one has a right to kill a life,” said Sabrina Soulier, 28. “Murder also exists, but that doesn’t mean we have to legalize it.”

Some 36 lawmakers out of 256 eligible to vote have yet to say where they stand, according to a count by Mr. Lipovetzky, who is optimistic that most of the undecideds will wind up in the yes column.

“Anything could happen,” Mr. Lipovetzky said. “The result will depend on how those undecideds end up voting.”

Many foresee the real battle playing out in the Senate, where rural provinces have more sway. A count by Economía Feminista, which advocates for gender equality, shows only 16 senators have spoken up in favor of legalization, while 27 have expressly said they are against the measure, and 29 have yet to say how they would vote.

But activists are convinced it will be difficult for senators to vote against the bill if it gathers a large margin of support in the lower house.

“No senator is suicidal,” Ms. Donda said. “We’re going to win because we have the most solid arguments in our favor.”

Correction: April 14, 2018

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a researcher at the Center for the Study of the State and Society. She is Mariana Romero, not Marcela.

Correction: April 14, 2018

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a sociologist. She is Dora Barrancos, not Nora.

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They Were Jailed for Miscarriages. Now, Campaign Aims to End Abortion Ban.


El Salvador’s health ministry has thrown its support behind changing the law, and doctors have begun speaking out, arguing that the ban ties their hands in treating high-risk pregnancies. International organizations have condemned the ban as a violation of women’s rights, and Chile, which relaxed its law in August, set an influential example.

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At a march on International Women’s Day last month in San Salvador, one sign called for the release of women who have been imprisoned after suffering miscarriages or stillbirths.

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Fred Ramos for The New York Times

“There’s a wide spectrum of grays, and we need to have a dialogue on the issue,” said Johnny Wright Sol, a lawmaker who broke from the right-wing Arena party last year and proposed a bill to permit abortion when the mother’s health is at risk or for a minor who has been raped.

“It’s a very conservative approach,” Mr. Wright said. “It’s a minimum standard at a level with the modernity of the 21st century.”

A separate bill would expand exceptions to the ban to include abortion in all rape cases and those involving an unviable fetus. Supporters hope to bring a vote before the legislative Assembly’s term finishes at the end of April, and before the new, more conservative Assembly that was elected last month is seated.

Advocates have paired their lobbying with a social media campaign focused not just on women’s health, but also on the harm done to families when a mother is prosecuted or her life is at risk. El Salvador’s largest television channels refused to run ads, but the campaign has bought radio spots, persuaded journalists to cover the issue and organized support from doctors, legal experts and economists, said Keyla Cáceres, a campaign organizer.

Lorena Peña, a lawmaker from the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front who proposed the bill with the broader exceptions in 2016, said there was “less fundamentalism now” about the issue. “The debate has been much wider.”

Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks — Ms. Peña said right-wing legislators feared that breaking ranks to support the changes would alienate their wealthy conservative backers — the campaign will continue. “I’m not pessimistic,” she said. “It’s not written in stone that it can’t change.”

Mr. Wright argued that resistance to changing the law “responds to a violent society, to machismo, to poverty,” rather than to the conservatism of Salvadoran society. “As a politician the easy way out is to say, ‘I’m pro-life and I’m against abortion,’” he said. “It’s a way of not delving deeper into the issues that are causing so much of our problems.”

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A plastic fetus in an exhibition against abortion last month in Antiguo Cuscatlán, El Salvador.

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Fred Ramos for The New York Times

Even if the public discussion has won the sympathy of some undecided legislators, many of them argue privately that abortion is not that important to Salvadorans, whose greatest worry is crime, said Morena Herrera, a longtime women’s rights activist who leads the Citizens’ Group, an organization that supports the exceptions to the abortion ban.

“That shows how they value the problems that poor women face,” she said. “If we don’t succeed with the change now, we are condemning another generation of girls to live with this injustice, this uncertainty.”

Abortion is punishable by up to eight years in prison, but a good lawyer can win a reduced sentence or house arrest, said Ms. Peña, the lawmaker. Poor women who suffer late-term miscarriages or stillbirths have been convicted of aggravated or attempted homicide in trials that seem to push them all down the same hall of mirrors.

Ms. Vásquez, 34, was at her job as a school cafeteria cook when she began bleeding and asked for medical help before losing consciousness and suffering a stillbirth. Prosecutors initially charged her with abortion and then changed the accusation to aggravated homicide. She never met her public defender.

She was released in February after the Supreme Court commuted her sentence.

Four weeks later, Maira Figueroa Marroquín left Ilopango after the government commuted her 30-year sentence. In 2003, when she was a 19-year-old maid, Ms. Figueroa began bleeding heavily at work toward the end of her pregnancy and, like Ms. Vásquez, was charged first with abortion and then aggravated homicide, according to the Citizens’ Group.

In its verdict, the court acknowledged that there was no direct proof of a homicide, but it said that the “demonstrated facts” had led to its conclusion. She served almost 15 years.

Since 2015, lawyers have won the release of five women. But 24 women convicted of aggravated or attempted homicide remain in jail and another is on trial, said Elida Caballero Cabrera, the advocacy adviser for the Center for Reproductive Rights in Washington.

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A march against abortion in San Salvador on Saturday.

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Fred Ramos for The New York Times

In a recent study that looked at how anti-abortion rhetoric had seeped into these prosecutions, Jocelyn Viterna, a Harvard sociologist, and José Santos Guardado Bautista, a lawyer in the Salvadoran attorney general’s office, found that the words “abortion” and “homicide” were used interchangeably by news reports and high-ranking legal officials.

It was “not surprising that this same blurring of abortion and homicide in cultural discourse became institutionalized” in the country’s judicial system, they wrote.

Anti-abortion groups say that the cases of the imprisoned women are unrelated to the abortion ban, and that the main concern should be improving health care for pregnant women. “If there was any injustice against these women, it was an error in the legal process,” said Sara Larín, the spokeswoman for a Catholic anti-abortion group Vida SV.

Activists who oppose relaxing the ban have begun their own campaign, arguing that El Salvador’s falling rate of maternal mortality shows that doctors can manage high-risk pregnancies without lifting the ban.

In cases of rape, “removing the child won’t remove the trauma,” said Dr. Mario López Saca, the medical adviser of the El Salvador Bioethics Association, a group that argues that human life begins at conception. When a fetus is unviable, palliative care is the best option for the mother, Dr. López Saca said, adding, “Abortion is a cowardly solution.”

But the health minister, Dr. Violeta Menjívar, has said that between 2011 and 2015, 13 women died from ectopic pregnancies, in which the embryo develops outside the uterus with no possibility of survival. Another 36 women died during that period when their chronic illnesses were exacerbated by pregnancy.

In 2015, 1,445 girls aged 10 to 14 became pregnant, according to the ministry’s statistics. Girls and young women face a high risk of rape in the home and by gangs, the government says.

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Women at risk of giving birth prematurely had their weight checked El Hospital de La Mujer in San Salvador.

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Fred Ramos for The New York Times

Dr. Guillermo Ortiz Avendaño, who led the unit overseeing high-risk pregnancies at the National Women’s Hospital in San Salvador for 20 years, said the argument about mortality rates was misguided.

The improvement has resulted from new protocols for complications at the very end of pregnancy, he said, and the ban prevents doctors from offering swift treatment at early stages. “It’s absolutely reproachable from the medical point of view,” Dr. Ortiz said of patients whose lives are at risk. “We are waiting until her condition is critical to be able to intervene.”

“When just one woman dies, it’s 100 percent of all the cases for her family,” added Dr. Ortiz, who is now a medical adviser for Ipas, a North Carolina reproductive rights group.

Dr. Victoria Ramírez, a gynecologist who supports a change in the law, said the abortion ban was never questioned during her training. But she now chafes at its restrictions.

Recently a 16-year-old mentally disabled girl who had been raped arrived with a high-risk pregnancy at the provincial hospital where Dr. Ramírez practices. “I couldn’t give her any options,” she said. “As doctors we are trained to do triage, and in this case I couldn’t.”

The girl, who was poor, went into labor about two months early and was taken to San Salvador, where specialized doctors saved both mother and baby after a dangerous birth. But the premature child will have severe developmental problems and no means of support, Dr. Rámirez said.

“When a woman is pregnant, she loses all her rights,” Dr. Rámirez said, “because the baby has more rights than she has.”

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Under Trump, an Office Meant to Help Refugees Enters the Abortion Wars


Unlike some traditional Republicans, many religious conservatives eagerly sought jobs in the administration and the chance to shape policy after eight years of a Democratic president. This was especially true at H.H.S., where the senior ranks are staffed with former activists who have built careers advancing socially conservative causes.

Some of those hires at H.H.S. include a deputy general counsel who was a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a well-funded conservative legal group that opposes gay rights and abortion and fought the Obama administration’s contraception coverage requirements; the chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health, who used to lead an abstinence advocacy group; and the head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights, whose work at the Heritage Foundation involved promoting religious freedom initiatives.

After a relatively slow start as key personnel were put in place, the department has been responsible for a flurry of new policies. It has told states that they no longer have to follow Obama-era rules that made it difficult to withhold Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. It has announced the creation of an entity inside its Office for Civil Rights called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which will respond to alleged violations of conscience and religious protections. And its new strategic plan commits the department to “protecting Americans at every stage of life, from conception.”

The result, activists on both sides of the fight say, is that no White House has been as aggressive in shaping policy in a way that hews so closely to the priorities of the religious right.

“Times are changing,” said Roger Severino, the head of the Office for Civil Rights, as he announced the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division this year. “And we are institutionalizing a change in the culture of government, beginning with H.H.S.”

Unlike previous Republican administrations, when it was Congress or the Supreme Court that initiated the biggest changes to abortion law, many of the most significant developments today are occurring at the agency level, largely out of public view. And that troubles liberal advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued Mr. Lloyd and won several times.

“There’s much more action at the federal level under Trump than there has been with other administrations,” said Jennifer Dalven, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

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Activists protesting Mr. Lloyd’s anti-abortion efforts before the start of a hearing on Capitol Hill in October.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

And when that action occurs mostly under the radar, she added, “you don’t provoke the same level of outrage from the public. It’s quiet. People don’t see it. And unlike if you were to overturn Roe v. Wade, you don’t have people marching in the streets.”

Since the week he took office, Mr. Trump has issued several orders that have thrown up roadblocks to access to abortion and reproductive health care.

Just three days after his inauguration, he reinstated a policy first implemented by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 that prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations from performing or discussing abortions as a family planning option if they want to receive American funding.

While this decision was something Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush also implemented, the Trump administration went further and expanded its order to say that if these nongovernmental organizations did offer or suggest abortion as an option, they would be ineligible not just for family planning assistance but for funding for a host of other unrelated health concerns — like HIV awareness, malaria and nutrition. That put billions of dollars of American aid in jeopardy.

“Trump being Trump, he didn’t just reinstate,” said Ilyse Hogue, the president of Naral Pro-Choice America. “He applied it to a much larger pot of money.”

But the administration’s most sweeping changes yet could come with proposed rules it announced in January. The proposals would expand protections for doctors, nurses and possibly a much wider pool of workers more loosely connected to health services who say that assisting with procedures like abortion and gender reassignment surgery would violate their religious beliefs. The administration is reviewing more than 55,000 comments on the proposals and could issue final rules later this year.

Critics say the language is so broad it could apply to virtually anyone, no matter how tangentially connected to the health care procedure or service they consider immoral.

“If you are the contractor who empties the waste baskets at a health plan and that health plan covers abortion, you can refuse without being fired,” said Clare Coleman, the president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.

Like his colleagues in other parts of H.H.S., Mr. Lloyd, who declined requests for comment, has a history in the anti-abortion movement. Before he joined the Trump administration, he worked as a policy coordinator for the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic fraternal order, and served on the board of a crisis pregnancy center in Virginia. On the résumé and cover letter he submitted to the department, he listed his work experience as the “architect” of a late-term abortion ban that is now law in six states.

While anti-abortion work has been his passion, Mr. Lloyd’s job as director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement entails broad responsibilities for helping people of all ages who are trying to resettle in the United States with financial, medical and other assistance. That undocumented minors have been caught up in his personal quest to fight abortion is something of a bureaucratic quirk. Minors are under the care of his office; the placement of adult refugees is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Administration for Children and Families at H.H.S., which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, said in a statement that as the legal guardian for the minors, Mr. Lloyd’s office is required by law to act with the girls’ interests in mind. And the Trump administration has determined, the statement added, that “the best interests of illegal immigrant children in our care include the protection of mothers and their babies in our facilities, and we will defend human dignity for all in our care.”

Mr. Lloyd has taken the position that as unauthorized immigrants, the girls are not entitled to the same constitutional protections as citizens. Under questioning from an A.C.L.U. lawyer during a deposition, he said he did not know of any set of circumstances that would cause him to grant an abortion request, though he said that if a girl’s life were in danger that could “potentially” sway him. He has denied at least one request for an abortion from a girl who said she had been raped.

Anti-abortion groups have welcomed his defiance as a hopeful sign. And they echo what H.H.S. officials have said themselves: A new culture is taking hold inside the Trump administration.

“If you think this is just an appendectomy, you rush that person to the hospital,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. “But if you think that an abortion is actually taking another person’s life, you pause, you think, you consider and figure out other options. And I think that’s where the Trump administration is coming from.”

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Judge Temporarily Stops U.S. From Blocking Undocumented Teenagers’ Abortions


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A detention center in McAllen, Tex., for undocumented minors.

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Todd Heisler/The New York Times

A federal judge in Washington issued a sweeping order on Friday that temporarily prevents the government from blocking access to abortion services for undocumented, pregnant minors who have been detained in federal immigration custody.

In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of United States District Court barred the government from interfering with hundreds of teenagers’ access to medical appointments, counseling, abortion procedures or other care, writing that the government’s practice of doing so infringed on the teenagers’ constitutional rights.

Judge Chutkan also allowed the case to proceed as a class action that will include four plaintiffs whose high-profile cases date to October 2017.

Since March 2017, the Office of Refugee Resettlement had instructed employees at federally funded shelters to not take “any action that facilitates an abortion without direction and approval from the director of O.R.R.,” court documents say. The Trump administration has argued that their policies do not create a so-called undue burden because undocumented teenagers seeking an abortion can obtain one by finding a sponsor or voluntarily deporting themselves to their home country.

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Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

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United States Courts

“This court does not find that either of these ‘options’ mitigates the undue burden that O.R.R.’s policy imposes on the young women in its custody,” Judge Chutkan wrote, calling the government’s proposal a “Hobson’s choice.”

While the Office of Refugee Resettlement and its director “are certainly entitled to maintain an interest in fetal life,” and even to prefer that pregnant teens in their custody choose one course over the other, federal officials “may not create or implement any policy that strips” the undocumented children “of their right to make their own reproductive choices,” Judge Chutkan, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, continued.

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Trump Rings Up Roseanne Barr After Her Show Is a Ratings Winner


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Roseanne Barr received a call from President Trump on Wednesday congratulating her on the high ratings her comedy had received. “Roseanne” is back on the air after more than two decades.

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Brinson+Banks for The New York Times

President Trump made a personal phone call on Wednesday to a political supporter with a huge megaphone — Roseanne Barr.

Mr. Trump called Ms. Barr to congratulate her on the revival of her comedy, “Roseanne,” and to thank her for her support.

The call was confirmed by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

The president, an obsessive about how TV shows perform, was enthralled by the “huge” ratings “Roseanne” had received, said a person familiar with the call. The show’s first episode, broadcast Tuesday evening on ABC, averaged 18.2 million viewers.

“Roseanne,” featuring a working-class family of five and assorted relatives, returned to the air this week more than two decades after it ended its run. The lead actress’s character plays a backer of Mr. Trump. (Roseanne’s TV sister, Jackie Harris, by contrast, supports Hillary Clinton, though ultimately voted for Jill Stein.)

Ms. Barr herself has been a vocal defender of Mr. Trump.

In an interview with The New York Times published Tuesday, Ms. Barr said that she decided to turn her character, Roseanne Conner, into a Trump supporter because she felt it was an “accurate portrayal” of the political preferences of many working-class Americans.

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Nazi-Era Abortion Law Strains German Coalition


“I am holding the chancellor to her word,” Ms. Barley told Die Zeit weekly. Earlier, she had indicated how a solution might look: instead of repealing the law, changing the wording so that overt advertising remains illegal, but allowing doctors to provide factual information about the procedure.

“Doctors need legal certainty,” Ms. Barley wrote on Twitter. “Women affected need support in a situation of personal crisis.”

But conservative forces within Ms. Merkel’s party appear intent on keeping the debate focused on the moral issue of abortion. On March 18, the new health minister, Jens Spahn, accused those seeking to overturn the law of caring more about protecting the lives of animals than of unborn humans.

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Conservative forces in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party appear intent on keeping the debate focused on the moral issue of abortion.

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Kay Nietfeld/DPA, via Associated Press

Dr. Hänel considers such arguments similar to those promoted by activists who have increasingly sought to bring legal proceedings against doctors who provide abortions. According to the most recent statistics published by the Federal Criminal Police, such complaints were filed against 35 doctors in 2015, up from 27 in 2014.

Not all have led to formal charges and even fewer to convictions, but Dr. Hänel and other doctors see a trend that they say aims to prevent them from providing a legally allowed medical procedure.

“I can’t believe that in this day and age the language and mind-set of the time when abortions were illegal continue to play a role in a country that is otherwise viewed by the rest of the world with respect,” Dr. Hänel wrote on March 19 in an open letter to Ms. Merkel. “I am ashamed and I hope that we can resolve this problem.”

This is not the first time Germans have struggled with the issue of abortion. The procedure was illegal in West Germany until the 1970s, when women took to the streets to demand the right to decide what happens with their bodies. In 1974, a law was passed legalizing abortion in the first trimester, but the country’s highest court overturned that ruling the following year.

A compromise requiring permission from a doctor in order to be allowed an abortion was further eased in the 1990s, after East Germany — where abortion was allowed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — was absorbed into the West, leading to the current legal agreement. Under that arrangement, abortion is a crime, but will not be prosecuted in the first 12 weeks if a woman undergoes counseling and a three-day waiting period.

In neighboring Austria, Christian Fiala, a gynecologist, has advertised for years that his clinic offers abortions. “Unwanted pregnancy?” reads a billboard in the University station of Vienna’s subway that includes his clinic’s name and telephone number. A decade ago, he began collecting the names of German doctors who perform abortions and publishing them on his website, which is based in Austria and therefore not subject to German restrictions.

“Information is absolutely essential, because women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant need information urgently,” Dr. Fiala said. “This has nothing do with advertising that would make it easier for a woman to decide to have an abortion just because she sees a poster somewhere. That idea is not only completely absurd, it is pretty sexist.”

The Netherlands requires a five-day waiting period for an abortion to be carried out in the first 12 weeks, while in Belgium that time period is six days. In neighboring France, a woman seeking an abortion must take part in two consultations with a doctor or midwife. But unlike in Germany, this information is publicly available.

“Germany is the only country in Europe where doctors are not allowed to provide information about abortions,” Dr. Hänel said.

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Kristina Hänel, center right, at a rally in Berlin last year against a German law that makes it a crime for doctors to publicly advertise that they perform abortions.

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Kiietzmann Björn/Action Press, via Shutterstock

In November, an administrative court found Dr. Hänel guilty of violating the law, because her website allows prospective patients to request and receive a two-page printable handout detailing the legal requirements, anesthesia options and potential risks of the procedure.

Instead of quietly removing the information or accepting the fine of 6,000 euros, or about $7,400, Dr. Hänel has challenged the ruling and is vowing to take it to the country’s highest court if needed. To raise awareness, she launched a petition demanding a “right to information about abortion.” She pointed out that the law had been introduced by the Nazi Party in the 1930s to criminalize Jewish doctors.

Immediately, the center-left Social Democrats rallied to the issue. In February they insisted that “Doctors must be able to inform women about terminating a pregnancy.”

But that was before it was clear that the party’s members would approve entering into yet another government under Ms. Merkel’s leadership. It was also before key members of Ms. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union made clear that they would not support any changes that could be viewed as easing the abortion law.

Hours before the March 14 vote in Parliament on the new government, Ms. Merkel appeared alongside the Social Democrats’ parliamentary whip in a meeting of the center-left caucus. She urged the Social Democrats to rescind their bill to rescind the abortion law, promising instead to seek a compromise through her new government.

The left-leaning party agreed, angering supporters and women who had joined protests calling on the government to rescind the law.

“Unbelievable!” wrote Lisa Paus, a Green party lawmaker who supports abortion rights. “A fatal signal to women,” wrote Ulle Schauws, another Green lawmaker. She pointed out that if the Social Democrats were willing to break with Ms. Merkel’s party and join with the Greens and the Free Democrats, they would have enough votes to change the law.

Last week, the leader of the youth wing of the Social Democrats, Kevin Kühnert, called for lawmakers to be allowed to vote based on their conscience, instead of along an agreed party line, on whether to rescind the law. That is how Germany swiftly ushered in same-sex marriage last spring, after years of failed attempts.

“The majority in Germany supports a change to the law,” Dr. Hänel said. “But those who are against it are very loud.”

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Editorial: An Ohio Bill Would Ban All Abortions. It’s Part of a Bigger Plan.


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Credit
Sally Deng

While Donald Trump once said he was “very pro-choice,” since the start of his presidential campaign his stance on abortion has been consistent: It should be banned, no matter the consequences to women. At times, he has even veered to the right of the mainstream anti-abortion movement, as when he said during a primary season town hall event that women who seek abortions should face “some form of punishment.” Most anti-abortion politicians profess to want to protect women, even when they pass laws that harm them.

Now legislators in one state want Mr. Trump’s cruel vision to become reality. Ohio lawmakers have proposed legislation to ban all abortions, period, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest or to save a woman’s life.

Carrying to term a pregnancy against one’s will is punishment enough — in fact, it can amount to torture, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council. But the Ohio bill would not only cut off access to the procedure, it would also open the door to criminal charges against both abortion providers and women seeking the procedure. One of the Republican co-sponsors of the legislation, State Representative Ron Hood, said it would be up to prosecutors to decide whether to charge a woman or a doctor, and what those charges would be. But they could be severe. Under the bill, an “unborn human” would be considered a person under state criminal homicide statutes. Thus, a prosecutor could decide to charge a woman who ended a pregnancy with murder. In Ohio, murder is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.

How’s that for pro-life?

If this all sounds legally unsound, that’s because it is. The Ohio bill is “blatantly unconstitutional,” said Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, which has challenged anti-abortion laws in the state. “This isn’t a hard one.”

That’s because the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal up to the point of fetal viability, which has shifted over time due to medical advancements in treating premature babies, but now occurs at about 24 weeks of pregnancy. Any ban on abortion before that time — say, at 15 weeks, as would be the case under a law that was passed and legally blocked in Mississippi last week — is generally considered unconstitutional.

This rash of radically unconstitutional bills is appearing by design. The anti-abortion movement has been trying to pass pre-viability abortion bans, like the Ohio bill, hoping that efforts to overturn them would lead to a challenge of Roe v. Wade that would end with the 45-year-old decision’s reversal in the Supreme Court.

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