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News

Latest news from IPPF EN

Spotlight

A selection of news from across the Federation

Solidarity image
News item

Equality must be at heart of new EU policy cycle

As European Union leaders decide on their priorities for the 2024-2029 cycle, we call on them to ensure that equality and non-discrimination are centred in the EU work programme for the next five years.
Abortion
news item

| 22 September 2023

Ahead of International Safe Abortion Day, CSOs call for action

The European Safe Abortion Networking Group is a group of national, regional and international SRHR organisations based in Europe, working for universal access to safe, legal abortion. The group was formed in 2019 and has been meeting online bi-monthly since the Covid pandemic began. Many people assume everything is OK with abortion in Europe. And it’s true that most of the countries in the region have very good laws and services compared to the rest of the world and that much has improved over the last years with strong national advocacy campaigns, feminist-run clinics, and active support from a long list of political parties, human rights bodies and the World Health Organization. But we still have a long way to go to make abortions universally accessible to everyone who seeks them. In many of our countries, even those with good laws on paper, access in practice is far from perfect, and making change happen is a slow process. We are going through a period where anti-rights movements are posing a serious threat to abortion access across the region. Most European countries allow abortion on request in the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy - although not without any regulatory, practical or medically unnecessary obstacles. Access to second and especially third trimester abortions, however, can be very limited and hemmed in with conditions, restrictions and requiring third party approval (doctors, parents), even though later abortions are so few and needed in the most desperate of situations. In a number of countries, abortion is still in the penal code, which permits legal systems to prosecute individuals for having or providing abortions, and also adds to stigma and discrimination. Moreover, there are still countries where most or all abortions are illegal, including Malta, Andorra and Poland, and where women are compelled to seek abortions outside the law - especially the growing numbers using pills but not under a clinician’s control. Women having abortions, and advocates for abortion rights are being prosecuted too, in Poland, Andorra, Malta and England. Almost invisibly, across the whole panorama of legal and clinical restrictions, thousands of women are still having to travel within and between countries to get abortions, often supported by under-resourced grassroots organisations and collectives instead of being supported by the State. The pandemic years made many things more difficult. Medical abortion pills were scarce in some countries and still are - and some countries still do not even allow abortion pills at all (e.g. Slovakia, Hungary). Travel across borders for abortions, especially later abortions, obviously became more difficult. On the other hand, some countries have approved the use of telemedicine and self-managed abortion with pills up to some point in the first trimester and it has now become a permanent option in some countries (such as France and the UK) and is well-established as an option within the care pathway in Ireland. Here are some of the most important legal and service-related changes and improvements we are calling for and will campaign for in our countries and across the region going forward: Complete decriminalisation of abortion in all countries, both as a harm reduction strategy to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity but also to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights, bodily autonomy and voluntary motherhood. Universal access to safe, legal abortions, as early as possible and for as long as needed, with choice of method. Self-managed abortion with pills up to 12 weeks should be allowed in all countries as recommended by the World Health Organization. Statement and Call for Action by the European Safe Abortion Networking Group for International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2023 Approval of combined medical abortion pills, and approval of misoprostol as an abortifacient, in all countries. Medical abortion pills are a very safe method, not only in the first trimester but also for later abortion, and are on the WHO Essential Medicines List. All countries should implement the 2022 World Health Organization Abortion Care guidelines including training for the range of health care providers, including pharmacists, who can provide services. Increase access to abortion beyond 12 weeks through training and education for midwives, nurses and doctors. Policies must be gender inclusive, that is, applying to women, girls and all people who can become pregnant and who seek an abortion.  

Abortion
news_item

| 22 September 2023

Ahead of International Safe Abortion Day, CSOs call for action

The European Safe Abortion Networking Group is a group of national, regional and international SRHR organisations based in Europe, working for universal access to safe, legal abortion. The group was formed in 2019 and has been meeting online bi-monthly since the Covid pandemic began. Many people assume everything is OK with abortion in Europe. And it’s true that most of the countries in the region have very good laws and services compared to the rest of the world and that much has improved over the last years with strong national advocacy campaigns, feminist-run clinics, and active support from a long list of political parties, human rights bodies and the World Health Organization. But we still have a long way to go to make abortions universally accessible to everyone who seeks them. In many of our countries, even those with good laws on paper, access in practice is far from perfect, and making change happen is a slow process. We are going through a period where anti-rights movements are posing a serious threat to abortion access across the region. Most European countries allow abortion on request in the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy - although not without any regulatory, practical or medically unnecessary obstacles. Access to second and especially third trimester abortions, however, can be very limited and hemmed in with conditions, restrictions and requiring third party approval (doctors, parents), even though later abortions are so few and needed in the most desperate of situations. In a number of countries, abortion is still in the penal code, which permits legal systems to prosecute individuals for having or providing abortions, and also adds to stigma and discrimination. Moreover, there are still countries where most or all abortions are illegal, including Malta, Andorra and Poland, and where women are compelled to seek abortions outside the law - especially the growing numbers using pills but not under a clinician’s control. Women having abortions, and advocates for abortion rights are being prosecuted too, in Poland, Andorra, Malta and England. Almost invisibly, across the whole panorama of legal and clinical restrictions, thousands of women are still having to travel within and between countries to get abortions, often supported by under-resourced grassroots organisations and collectives instead of being supported by the State. The pandemic years made many things more difficult. Medical abortion pills were scarce in some countries and still are - and some countries still do not even allow abortion pills at all (e.g. Slovakia, Hungary). Travel across borders for abortions, especially later abortions, obviously became more difficult. On the other hand, some countries have approved the use of telemedicine and self-managed abortion with pills up to some point in the first trimester and it has now become a permanent option in some countries (such as France and the UK) and is well-established as an option within the care pathway in Ireland. Here are some of the most important legal and service-related changes and improvements we are calling for and will campaign for in our countries and across the region going forward: Complete decriminalisation of abortion in all countries, both as a harm reduction strategy to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity but also to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights, bodily autonomy and voluntary motherhood. Universal access to safe, legal abortions, as early as possible and for as long as needed, with choice of method. Self-managed abortion with pills up to 12 weeks should be allowed in all countries as recommended by the World Health Organization. Statement and Call for Action by the European Safe Abortion Networking Group for International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2023 Approval of combined medical abortion pills, and approval of misoprostol as an abortifacient, in all countries. Medical abortion pills are a very safe method, not only in the first trimester but also for later abortion, and are on the WHO Essential Medicines List. All countries should implement the 2022 World Health Organization Abortion Care guidelines including training for the range of health care providers, including pharmacists, who can provide services. Increase access to abortion beyond 12 weeks through training and education for midwives, nurses and doctors. Policies must be gender inclusive, that is, applying to women, girls and all people who can become pregnant and who seek an abortion.  

Visual from joint declaration
news item

| 21 September 2023

Civil society calls on EU and national governments to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights

On 28 September, the Spanish EU Presidency hosted a High Level Conference on “The effective Guarantee of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Europe". Ahead of this important forum, around 140 civil society organisations are speaking with one voice to call on national governments to take a firm stance and make concrete commitments in defence of EU values, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. This ministerial Conference came at a crucial time, ahead of European elections next year, and against a backdrop of multiple crises and the global rise of anti-rights and anti-gender movements. In this context, civil society urged the EU's national governments to adopt a unified approach to ensure equal access to quality SRHR and enable all people to enjoy equal rights and lead free and save lives, free from discrimination and violence.   Download the CSO declaration below as well as the Joint Ministerial Declaration singed by 14 countries. 

Visual from joint declaration
news_item

| 21 September 2023

Civil society calls on EU and national governments to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights

On 28 September, the Spanish EU Presidency hosted a High Level Conference on “The effective Guarantee of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Europe". Ahead of this important forum, around 140 civil society organisations are speaking with one voice to call on national governments to take a firm stance and make concrete commitments in defence of EU values, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. This ministerial Conference came at a crucial time, ahead of European elections next year, and against a backdrop of multiple crises and the global rise of anti-rights and anti-gender movements. In this context, civil society urged the EU's national governments to adopt a unified approach to ensure equal access to quality SRHR and enable all people to enjoy equal rights and lead free and save lives, free from discrimination and violence.   Download the CSO declaration below as well as the Joint Ministerial Declaration singed by 14 countries. 

Logo sex workers' rights coalition
news item

| 11 September 2023

Sex Workers' Rights: Open Letter to MEPs voting on Prostitution Report

Open Letter to Members of the European Parliament Re: Prostitution Report We, the organisations united under the European Coalition on Sex Workers’ Rights and Inclusion, call on all Members of the European Parliament to reject and to vote against the report Regulation of prostitution in the EU: its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights, 2022/2139(INI). Our organisations are leading civil society networks and human rights organisations. We have decades of experience and expertise in addressing women’s rights and gender equality, human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV, harm reduction, the rights of LGBTI people, digital rights, human trafficking, migration, racial justice and criminal justice. Within these numerous fields of expertise, all 13 organisations have come to the same conclusion: criminalisation of any aspect of sex work, which is proposed by this report, does not protect the rights of women and others engaged in sex work for manifold reasons, and does not help address the very serious issue of human trafficking and forced labour. It is only by adopting a human rights-based approach, decriminalising all aspects of sex work, and meaningfully including sex workers and sex workers’ human rights defenders in decision-making, that people selling sex, including victims of sexual exploitation, can be protected and serious human rights violations against people selling sex experience can be addressed. We consider the submitted report, which will be put to a vote in plenary on September 14, to be biased and harmful for people selling sex and other vulnerable groups. Download the full open letter below.    

Logo sex workers' rights coalition
news_item

| 11 September 2023

Sex Workers' Rights: Open Letter to MEPs voting on Prostitution Report

Open Letter to Members of the European Parliament Re: Prostitution Report We, the organisations united under the European Coalition on Sex Workers’ Rights and Inclusion, call on all Members of the European Parliament to reject and to vote against the report Regulation of prostitution in the EU: its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights, 2022/2139(INI). Our organisations are leading civil society networks and human rights organisations. We have decades of experience and expertise in addressing women’s rights and gender equality, human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV, harm reduction, the rights of LGBTI people, digital rights, human trafficking, migration, racial justice and criminal justice. Within these numerous fields of expertise, all 13 organisations have come to the same conclusion: criminalisation of any aspect of sex work, which is proposed by this report, does not protect the rights of women and others engaged in sex work for manifold reasons, and does not help address the very serious issue of human trafficking and forced labour. It is only by adopting a human rights-based approach, decriminalising all aspects of sex work, and meaningfully including sex workers and sex workers’ human rights defenders in decision-making, that people selling sex, including victims of sexual exploitation, can be protected and serious human rights violations against people selling sex experience can be addressed. We consider the submitted report, which will be put to a vote in plenary on September 14, to be biased and harmful for people selling sex and other vulnerable groups. Download the full open letter below.    

#AWW event
news item

| 06 June 2023

#AWorldWhere global access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a reality - campaign launch

Join us on Instagram on June 13 at 4pm CSET, to launch our new campaign #AWorldWhere together with Liana Abdikarimova, IPPF EN youth activist, MEP Alice Kuhnke and Bénédicte Joan, feminist activist from the Ivory Coast. We believe we are members of an interconnected society and what affects one of us, affects us all. Everyone in society has the right to live with dignity and we believe it is our collective responsibility to ensure we all do. During this event, our guests will share their reflections on how the world could look like if sexual and reproductive health and rights needs are met globally and what we need from European policy makers to achieve this. What can you expect? We will be talking about strengthening healthcare systems, achieving gender equality, combatting gender-based violence and how our communities can change for the better if we work together to redesign systems so that they work for everyone. Join our Instagram Live and follow @C2030Europe for updates! This is the first of a series of events under the umbrella of the #AWorldWhere campaign aiming to drive Europe’s global commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights, to meet Sustainable Development Goals targets, advance gender equality and strengthen health systems. #AWorldWhere is a Countdown 2030 Europe initiative driven by 15 leading European non-governmental organisations advocating for sexual and reproductive freedom worldwide.

#AWW event
news_item

| 06 June 2023

#AWorldWhere global access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a reality - campaign launch

Join us on Instagram on June 13 at 4pm CSET, to launch our new campaign #AWorldWhere together with Liana Abdikarimova, IPPF EN youth activist, MEP Alice Kuhnke and Bénédicte Joan, feminist activist from the Ivory Coast. We believe we are members of an interconnected society and what affects one of us, affects us all. Everyone in society has the right to live with dignity and we believe it is our collective responsibility to ensure we all do. During this event, our guests will share their reflections on how the world could look like if sexual and reproductive health and rights needs are met globally and what we need from European policy makers to achieve this. What can you expect? We will be talking about strengthening healthcare systems, achieving gender equality, combatting gender-based violence and how our communities can change for the better if we work together to redesign systems so that they work for everyone. Join our Instagram Live and follow @C2030Europe for updates! This is the first of a series of events under the umbrella of the #AWorldWhere campaign aiming to drive Europe’s global commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights, to meet Sustainable Development Goals targets, advance gender equality and strengthen health systems. #AWorldWhere is a Countdown 2030 Europe initiative driven by 15 leading European non-governmental organisations advocating for sexual and reproductive freedom worldwide.

Justyna ADT
news item

| 15 March 2023

Poland: Justyna gave her closing speech during trial

Justyna Wydrzyńska was charged with supporting Ania, a woman in an abusive relationship, to access abortion pills. A survivor herself of a similar situation to Ania, she took compassionate action to help the woman. Justyna’s efforts were reported to the police by Ania’s controlling husband.  Ania was denied abortion care, but the stress caused her to miscarry. Justyna, a member of Abortion Without Borders and the Abortion Dream Team has been facing a legal battle for more than one year for facilitating an abortion that didn’t happen. Her closing speech in court follows: .... I stand here today because I gave someone my abortion pills. I sent them to another woman. It is an undeniable fact. I’m facing 3 years in prison. I didn’t do it out of my own initiative, because I do not distribute abortion pills. I knew that at that time, Ania was desperate. And I had a set of pills for my own use. The pills which I had for my own use, which I sent to Ania, are now the safest way to terminate a pregnancy in Poland. They are widely used in Europe and across the entire world by millions of people. They do not require anaesthesia, pose no complication risks, are safer than simple medical procedures. I know that from the reports of World Health Organization, which recommends unrestricted access to these pills, mifepristone and misoprostol. There are no contraindications against this. I sent my pills to Ania because I knew that she was in an abusive relationship - just like me a few years earlier. We were both controlled, emotionally blackmailed, lonely. We both have children and we wanted to protect them. I also experienced violence in a relationship. I was controlled, subjected to financial, physical and emotional abuse which were ubiquitous in “my” home. Us women, who experienced domestic violence, know what must be sacrificed to protect the safety of our children above all. I have three kids. Mothers in abusive relationships will do whatever they can for their children to sleep peacefully, for themselves to escape the constant, destructive tension.Us, who survive violence, keep our experiences a secret. We are ashamed of our lack of courage to fight for freedom, of allowing someone to control us. Often we stay - by choice and out of necessity. These obvious facts are tightly linked with the need to control one’s own reproductive autonomy. Living in abuse we often don’t realise that we have lost control over our bodies and the remainder of our lives. Because someone in our home decides for us, often against our will. I got pregnant by a man who hurt me, an abuser, and I terminated this pregnancy because I did not want it. My abortion made me realise I can control my own life, and I can regain that control. I felt that I can make my own decisions, and the fear I felt was not just for my body, but also for freedom which is a superior human right. I got divorced in 2009, after 11 years of marriage. I did it to save myself and my children. But the memories of abuse I went through are still present within me. This is not something you can just forget. And I do not wish this experience upon anyone. My own abortion was a breakthrough for me. I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which any woman is deprived of access to reliable information and simple human support. This has been motivating me in my activism, in my social work. For me this trial is symbolically a trial for anyone who ever provided support to a person in need.  I feel I do not stand here alone. My friends have my back, but so do hundreds of women whom I haven’t yet had the chance to meet. Here, in this courtroom, we touch upon basic human rights, such as the right to self-determination. I have the support of numerous human rights organizations with their vast knowledge on these issues: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Their opinion is clear: I am a human rights defender. And they are not alone in saying this. Catholics for Choice, Belgian Parliament, more than 80 members of the European parliament, high ranking rapporteurs on women’s rights have all approached the Polish parliament stating that I should not be prosecuted. I should never be oppressed for my work protecting women’s life and health. Similarly, the International Foundation of Gynecology and Obstetrics demands my exoneration and stresses that my work is not only safe, but also endorsed by the World Health Organization.  Your honor knows about this, because numerous organisations filed amicus curiae letters in my case. These are not just expert opinions, but also the voices of hundreds of thousands of people who signed a petition to the prosecutor’s office. They all say the same. This trial should never have happened. I am thankful for this support. Yet I am here, Your Honor, sitting in the dock. And this last year has been very difficult for me, my family, for those close to me. I feel I am innocent. What I heard here in this room, the details of Anna’s situation, only convinced me that my actions were right. It made me realize that I should trust my intuition and take the risk of helping those who need it. I would never wish for any woman to be alone in these tough situations, without support, with her family acting against her. I believe that helping another person who asks for support as they fight for their freedom is our duty. It is what makes us human. And I will not abandon it, I will not be ashamed of it or believe that it is a crime. Your honor, we live in a country which doesn’t respect women. The polish anti-abortion law from 1993 was one of the most restrictive in Europe, because it forced people in unwanted pregnancies to have their abortions in secret. For them, activist organizations were the only respite from dangerous methods or peddlers. Initiatives like Abortion Without Borders are doing work which should have been the state’s job for years as part of the healthcare system. I’ve been working in this field for 16 years and witness how the state’s decisions and rulings worsen women’s situation. The anti-abortion law is not only cruel; it is fictitious. The law doesn’t stop people with unwanted pregnancies from terminating them. This is not my opinion - that’s what all abortion research shows, around the world.  A woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant thinks pragmatically; how to access abortion, how much it will cost, can she afford it. And she will have that abortion, regardless of the law and regardless of how safe the method she uses will be. I thought this way, so did Anna, so do 100 000 women in Poland every year, so do Ukrainian refugees. And they are right. After October 22nd, 2020, when the pseudo-tribunal ruled in favor of further restricting abortion access, women whose pregnancies have fetal abnormalities started to go to Netherlands for help. There, it is possible to terminate until the 22nd week of pregnancy. Women with diagnosed fetal abnormalities ask: “do I have to go to a foreign country, feel like a fugitive, why can’t I do it in a hospital here, and then go home as soon as possible?”. Doctors in Dutch clinics simply say: “Polish women are the largest group of foreign patients in our clinics. They have special needs, they are often scarred by their experience with polish hospitals. We need to calm them down and reassure them that they will receive help”. The medical condition of women travelling to Dutch clinics worsens constantly since 2020. There are very many people who need an abortion here and now, who are in danger, not just from the cruel law, medical negligence, cowardice of doctors, but also from being in abusive relationships, under constant supervision. Being free from an unwanted pregnancy allows them to be free from abuse in general.  That’s what it was for me, it was a factor in realising how I am being confined, how much I need freedom and the ability to decide for myself. I wanted the same for Anna. I wanted her to be free and control her life and body.  I didn’t want her to risk her life when the solution was so simple and medically safe  I do not want anyone to go alone through a dangerous process of an unsafe abortion when it is possible to do it safely, without stigma. I don’t want any of us to be forced to abandon her right to freedom and self-determination.   I was driven by the will to help when no one else wanted to or could help. For me, helping Ania was an obvious, decent and honest thing to do. It’s good to be honest, even if it doesn’t always pay off. If I knew more about Ania’s situation, I wouldn’t just have sent her the pills. I would have stayed in touch to support her during the abortion, so she wouldn’t feel alone. So she would have someone who would listen, stay with her, hold her hands. We are here to decide on my guilt. I am not guilty and I will say it out loud: the State is guilty, of abandoning Ania, Iza from Pszczyna, Agnieszka from Częstochowa, and millions of women across the country. I ask the court for acquittal.   Originally published by the Abortion Dream Team here.

Justyna ADT
news_item

| 15 March 2023

Poland: Justyna gave her closing speech during trial

Justyna Wydrzyńska was charged with supporting Ania, a woman in an abusive relationship, to access abortion pills. A survivor herself of a similar situation to Ania, she took compassionate action to help the woman. Justyna’s efforts were reported to the police by Ania’s controlling husband.  Ania was denied abortion care, but the stress caused her to miscarry. Justyna, a member of Abortion Without Borders and the Abortion Dream Team has been facing a legal battle for more than one year for facilitating an abortion that didn’t happen. Her closing speech in court follows: .... I stand here today because I gave someone my abortion pills. I sent them to another woman. It is an undeniable fact. I’m facing 3 years in prison. I didn’t do it out of my own initiative, because I do not distribute abortion pills. I knew that at that time, Ania was desperate. And I had a set of pills for my own use. The pills which I had for my own use, which I sent to Ania, are now the safest way to terminate a pregnancy in Poland. They are widely used in Europe and across the entire world by millions of people. They do not require anaesthesia, pose no complication risks, are safer than simple medical procedures. I know that from the reports of World Health Organization, which recommends unrestricted access to these pills, mifepristone and misoprostol. There are no contraindications against this. I sent my pills to Ania because I knew that she was in an abusive relationship - just like me a few years earlier. We were both controlled, emotionally blackmailed, lonely. We both have children and we wanted to protect them. I also experienced violence in a relationship. I was controlled, subjected to financial, physical and emotional abuse which were ubiquitous in “my” home. Us women, who experienced domestic violence, know what must be sacrificed to protect the safety of our children above all. I have three kids. Mothers in abusive relationships will do whatever they can for their children to sleep peacefully, for themselves to escape the constant, destructive tension.Us, who survive violence, keep our experiences a secret. We are ashamed of our lack of courage to fight for freedom, of allowing someone to control us. Often we stay - by choice and out of necessity. These obvious facts are tightly linked with the need to control one’s own reproductive autonomy. Living in abuse we often don’t realise that we have lost control over our bodies and the remainder of our lives. Because someone in our home decides for us, often against our will. I got pregnant by a man who hurt me, an abuser, and I terminated this pregnancy because I did not want it. My abortion made me realise I can control my own life, and I can regain that control. I felt that I can make my own decisions, and the fear I felt was not just for my body, but also for freedom which is a superior human right. I got divorced in 2009, after 11 years of marriage. I did it to save myself and my children. But the memories of abuse I went through are still present within me. This is not something you can just forget. And I do not wish this experience upon anyone. My own abortion was a breakthrough for me. I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which any woman is deprived of access to reliable information and simple human support. This has been motivating me in my activism, in my social work. For me this trial is symbolically a trial for anyone who ever provided support to a person in need.  I feel I do not stand here alone. My friends have my back, but so do hundreds of women whom I haven’t yet had the chance to meet. Here, in this courtroom, we touch upon basic human rights, such as the right to self-determination. I have the support of numerous human rights organizations with their vast knowledge on these issues: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Their opinion is clear: I am a human rights defender. And they are not alone in saying this. Catholics for Choice, Belgian Parliament, more than 80 members of the European parliament, high ranking rapporteurs on women’s rights have all approached the Polish parliament stating that I should not be prosecuted. I should never be oppressed for my work protecting women’s life and health. Similarly, the International Foundation of Gynecology and Obstetrics demands my exoneration and stresses that my work is not only safe, but also endorsed by the World Health Organization.  Your honor knows about this, because numerous organisations filed amicus curiae letters in my case. These are not just expert opinions, but also the voices of hundreds of thousands of people who signed a petition to the prosecutor’s office. They all say the same. This trial should never have happened. I am thankful for this support. Yet I am here, Your Honor, sitting in the dock. And this last year has been very difficult for me, my family, for those close to me. I feel I am innocent. What I heard here in this room, the details of Anna’s situation, only convinced me that my actions were right. It made me realize that I should trust my intuition and take the risk of helping those who need it. I would never wish for any woman to be alone in these tough situations, without support, with her family acting against her. I believe that helping another person who asks for support as they fight for their freedom is our duty. It is what makes us human. And I will not abandon it, I will not be ashamed of it or believe that it is a crime. Your honor, we live in a country which doesn’t respect women. The polish anti-abortion law from 1993 was one of the most restrictive in Europe, because it forced people in unwanted pregnancies to have their abortions in secret. For them, activist organizations were the only respite from dangerous methods or peddlers. Initiatives like Abortion Without Borders are doing work which should have been the state’s job for years as part of the healthcare system. I’ve been working in this field for 16 years and witness how the state’s decisions and rulings worsen women’s situation. The anti-abortion law is not only cruel; it is fictitious. The law doesn’t stop people with unwanted pregnancies from terminating them. This is not my opinion - that’s what all abortion research shows, around the world.  A woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant thinks pragmatically; how to access abortion, how much it will cost, can she afford it. And she will have that abortion, regardless of the law and regardless of how safe the method she uses will be. I thought this way, so did Anna, so do 100 000 women in Poland every year, so do Ukrainian refugees. And they are right. After October 22nd, 2020, when the pseudo-tribunal ruled in favor of further restricting abortion access, women whose pregnancies have fetal abnormalities started to go to Netherlands for help. There, it is possible to terminate until the 22nd week of pregnancy. Women with diagnosed fetal abnormalities ask: “do I have to go to a foreign country, feel like a fugitive, why can’t I do it in a hospital here, and then go home as soon as possible?”. Doctors in Dutch clinics simply say: “Polish women are the largest group of foreign patients in our clinics. They have special needs, they are often scarred by their experience with polish hospitals. We need to calm them down and reassure them that they will receive help”. The medical condition of women travelling to Dutch clinics worsens constantly since 2020. There are very many people who need an abortion here and now, who are in danger, not just from the cruel law, medical negligence, cowardice of doctors, but also from being in abusive relationships, under constant supervision. Being free from an unwanted pregnancy allows them to be free from abuse in general.  That’s what it was for me, it was a factor in realising how I am being confined, how much I need freedom and the ability to decide for myself. I wanted the same for Anna. I wanted her to be free and control her life and body.  I didn’t want her to risk her life when the solution was so simple and medically safe  I do not want anyone to go alone through a dangerous process of an unsafe abortion when it is possible to do it safely, without stigma. I don’t want any of us to be forced to abandon her right to freedom and self-determination.   I was driven by the will to help when no one else wanted to or could help. For me, helping Ania was an obvious, decent and honest thing to do. It’s good to be honest, even if it doesn’t always pay off. If I knew more about Ania’s situation, I wouldn’t just have sent her the pills. I would have stayed in touch to support her during the abortion, so she wouldn’t feel alone. So she would have someone who would listen, stay with her, hold her hands. We are here to decide on my guilt. I am not guilty and I will say it out loud: the State is guilty, of abandoning Ania, Iza from Pszczyna, Agnieszka from Częstochowa, and millions of women across the country. I ask the court for acquittal.   Originally published by the Abortion Dream Team here.

Anina Takeff
news item

| 07 March 2023

Woman human rights defender in Andorra faces trial for speaking in favor of abortion care

Woman human rights defender, Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, from Andorra could soon face trial for speaking out on women’s rights and the right to abortion before the United Nations (UN). If Vanessa is convicted, she faces a big fine of 30.000 Euros and could have a criminal record.  Vanessa Mendoza Cortés is a psychologist and the president of the women’s rights organization, Stop Violence, (Associació Stop Violències, in Catalan), which focuses on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, and advocates for safe and legal abortion in Andorra. Vanessa has been targeted by her government for the past four years, simply for exercising her right to freedom of expression and criticising the full ban on abortion care in the country. Vanessa spoke in front of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2019, as part of the regular and critical exchange of information conducted between this UN body and human rights defenders around the world.  Following a complaint from the Andorran government, the public prosecutor brought charges against her. While previous charges of defamation, which carried prison sentences, were dropped in 2021, thanks to international pressure, Vanessa continues to be harassed by the prosecution, who is accusing her of crime ‘against the prestige of the institutions’.  

Anina Takeff
news_item

| 07 March 2023

Woman human rights defender in Andorra faces trial for speaking in favor of abortion care

Woman human rights defender, Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, from Andorra could soon face trial for speaking out on women’s rights and the right to abortion before the United Nations (UN). If Vanessa is convicted, she faces a big fine of 30.000 Euros and could have a criminal record.  Vanessa Mendoza Cortés is a psychologist and the president of the women’s rights organization, Stop Violence, (Associació Stop Violències, in Catalan), which focuses on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, and advocates for safe and legal abortion in Andorra. Vanessa has been targeted by her government for the past four years, simply for exercising her right to freedom of expression and criticising the full ban on abortion care in the country. Vanessa spoke in front of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2019, as part of the regular and critical exchange of information conducted between this UN body and human rights defenders around the world.  Following a complaint from the Andorran government, the public prosecutor brought charges against her. While previous charges of defamation, which carried prison sentences, were dropped in 2021, thanks to international pressure, Vanessa continues to be harassed by the prosecution, who is accusing her of crime ‘against the prestige of the institutions’.  

Abortion
news item

| 22 September 2023

Ahead of International Safe Abortion Day, CSOs call for action

The European Safe Abortion Networking Group is a group of national, regional and international SRHR organisations based in Europe, working for universal access to safe, legal abortion. The group was formed in 2019 and has been meeting online bi-monthly since the Covid pandemic began. Many people assume everything is OK with abortion in Europe. And it’s true that most of the countries in the region have very good laws and services compared to the rest of the world and that much has improved over the last years with strong national advocacy campaigns, feminist-run clinics, and active support from a long list of political parties, human rights bodies and the World Health Organization. But we still have a long way to go to make abortions universally accessible to everyone who seeks them. In many of our countries, even those with good laws on paper, access in practice is far from perfect, and making change happen is a slow process. We are going through a period where anti-rights movements are posing a serious threat to abortion access across the region. Most European countries allow abortion on request in the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy - although not without any regulatory, practical or medically unnecessary obstacles. Access to second and especially third trimester abortions, however, can be very limited and hemmed in with conditions, restrictions and requiring third party approval (doctors, parents), even though later abortions are so few and needed in the most desperate of situations. In a number of countries, abortion is still in the penal code, which permits legal systems to prosecute individuals for having or providing abortions, and also adds to stigma and discrimination. Moreover, there are still countries where most or all abortions are illegal, including Malta, Andorra and Poland, and where women are compelled to seek abortions outside the law - especially the growing numbers using pills but not under a clinician’s control. Women having abortions, and advocates for abortion rights are being prosecuted too, in Poland, Andorra, Malta and England. Almost invisibly, across the whole panorama of legal and clinical restrictions, thousands of women are still having to travel within and between countries to get abortions, often supported by under-resourced grassroots organisations and collectives instead of being supported by the State. The pandemic years made many things more difficult. Medical abortion pills were scarce in some countries and still are - and some countries still do not even allow abortion pills at all (e.g. Slovakia, Hungary). Travel across borders for abortions, especially later abortions, obviously became more difficult. On the other hand, some countries have approved the use of telemedicine and self-managed abortion with pills up to some point in the first trimester and it has now become a permanent option in some countries (such as France and the UK) and is well-established as an option within the care pathway in Ireland. Here are some of the most important legal and service-related changes and improvements we are calling for and will campaign for in our countries and across the region going forward: Complete decriminalisation of abortion in all countries, both as a harm reduction strategy to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity but also to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights, bodily autonomy and voluntary motherhood. Universal access to safe, legal abortions, as early as possible and for as long as needed, with choice of method. Self-managed abortion with pills up to 12 weeks should be allowed in all countries as recommended by the World Health Organization. Statement and Call for Action by the European Safe Abortion Networking Group for International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2023 Approval of combined medical abortion pills, and approval of misoprostol as an abortifacient, in all countries. Medical abortion pills are a very safe method, not only in the first trimester but also for later abortion, and are on the WHO Essential Medicines List. All countries should implement the 2022 World Health Organization Abortion Care guidelines including training for the range of health care providers, including pharmacists, who can provide services. Increase access to abortion beyond 12 weeks through training and education for midwives, nurses and doctors. Policies must be gender inclusive, that is, applying to women, girls and all people who can become pregnant and who seek an abortion.  

Abortion
news_item

| 22 September 2023

Ahead of International Safe Abortion Day, CSOs call for action

The European Safe Abortion Networking Group is a group of national, regional and international SRHR organisations based in Europe, working for universal access to safe, legal abortion. The group was formed in 2019 and has been meeting online bi-monthly since the Covid pandemic began. Many people assume everything is OK with abortion in Europe. And it’s true that most of the countries in the region have very good laws and services compared to the rest of the world and that much has improved over the last years with strong national advocacy campaigns, feminist-run clinics, and active support from a long list of political parties, human rights bodies and the World Health Organization. But we still have a long way to go to make abortions universally accessible to everyone who seeks them. In many of our countries, even those with good laws on paper, access in practice is far from perfect, and making change happen is a slow process. We are going through a period where anti-rights movements are posing a serious threat to abortion access across the region. Most European countries allow abortion on request in the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy - although not without any regulatory, practical or medically unnecessary obstacles. Access to second and especially third trimester abortions, however, can be very limited and hemmed in with conditions, restrictions and requiring third party approval (doctors, parents), even though later abortions are so few and needed in the most desperate of situations. In a number of countries, abortion is still in the penal code, which permits legal systems to prosecute individuals for having or providing abortions, and also adds to stigma and discrimination. Moreover, there are still countries where most or all abortions are illegal, including Malta, Andorra and Poland, and where women are compelled to seek abortions outside the law - especially the growing numbers using pills but not under a clinician’s control. Women having abortions, and advocates for abortion rights are being prosecuted too, in Poland, Andorra, Malta and England. Almost invisibly, across the whole panorama of legal and clinical restrictions, thousands of women are still having to travel within and between countries to get abortions, often supported by under-resourced grassroots organisations and collectives instead of being supported by the State. The pandemic years made many things more difficult. Medical abortion pills were scarce in some countries and still are - and some countries still do not even allow abortion pills at all (e.g. Slovakia, Hungary). Travel across borders for abortions, especially later abortions, obviously became more difficult. On the other hand, some countries have approved the use of telemedicine and self-managed abortion with pills up to some point in the first trimester and it has now become a permanent option in some countries (such as France and the UK) and is well-established as an option within the care pathway in Ireland. Here are some of the most important legal and service-related changes and improvements we are calling for and will campaign for in our countries and across the region going forward: Complete decriminalisation of abortion in all countries, both as a harm reduction strategy to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity but also to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights, bodily autonomy and voluntary motherhood. Universal access to safe, legal abortions, as early as possible and for as long as needed, with choice of method. Self-managed abortion with pills up to 12 weeks should be allowed in all countries as recommended by the World Health Organization. Statement and Call for Action by the European Safe Abortion Networking Group for International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2023 Approval of combined medical abortion pills, and approval of misoprostol as an abortifacient, in all countries. Medical abortion pills are a very safe method, not only in the first trimester but also for later abortion, and are on the WHO Essential Medicines List. All countries should implement the 2022 World Health Organization Abortion Care guidelines including training for the range of health care providers, including pharmacists, who can provide services. Increase access to abortion beyond 12 weeks through training and education for midwives, nurses and doctors. Policies must be gender inclusive, that is, applying to women, girls and all people who can become pregnant and who seek an abortion.  

Visual from joint declaration
news item

| 21 September 2023

Civil society calls on EU and national governments to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights

On 28 September, the Spanish EU Presidency hosted a High Level Conference on “The effective Guarantee of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Europe". Ahead of this important forum, around 140 civil society organisations are speaking with one voice to call on national governments to take a firm stance and make concrete commitments in defence of EU values, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. This ministerial Conference came at a crucial time, ahead of European elections next year, and against a backdrop of multiple crises and the global rise of anti-rights and anti-gender movements. In this context, civil society urged the EU's national governments to adopt a unified approach to ensure equal access to quality SRHR and enable all people to enjoy equal rights and lead free and save lives, free from discrimination and violence.   Download the CSO declaration below as well as the Joint Ministerial Declaration singed by 14 countries. 

Visual from joint declaration
news_item

| 21 September 2023

Civil society calls on EU and national governments to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights

On 28 September, the Spanish EU Presidency hosted a High Level Conference on “The effective Guarantee of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Europe". Ahead of this important forum, around 140 civil society organisations are speaking with one voice to call on national governments to take a firm stance and make concrete commitments in defence of EU values, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. This ministerial Conference came at a crucial time, ahead of European elections next year, and against a backdrop of multiple crises and the global rise of anti-rights and anti-gender movements. In this context, civil society urged the EU's national governments to adopt a unified approach to ensure equal access to quality SRHR and enable all people to enjoy equal rights and lead free and save lives, free from discrimination and violence.   Download the CSO declaration below as well as the Joint Ministerial Declaration singed by 14 countries. 

Logo sex workers' rights coalition
news item

| 11 September 2023

Sex Workers' Rights: Open Letter to MEPs voting on Prostitution Report

Open Letter to Members of the European Parliament Re: Prostitution Report We, the organisations united under the European Coalition on Sex Workers’ Rights and Inclusion, call on all Members of the European Parliament to reject and to vote against the report Regulation of prostitution in the EU: its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights, 2022/2139(INI). Our organisations are leading civil society networks and human rights organisations. We have decades of experience and expertise in addressing women’s rights and gender equality, human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV, harm reduction, the rights of LGBTI people, digital rights, human trafficking, migration, racial justice and criminal justice. Within these numerous fields of expertise, all 13 organisations have come to the same conclusion: criminalisation of any aspect of sex work, which is proposed by this report, does not protect the rights of women and others engaged in sex work for manifold reasons, and does not help address the very serious issue of human trafficking and forced labour. It is only by adopting a human rights-based approach, decriminalising all aspects of sex work, and meaningfully including sex workers and sex workers’ human rights defenders in decision-making, that people selling sex, including victims of sexual exploitation, can be protected and serious human rights violations against people selling sex experience can be addressed. We consider the submitted report, which will be put to a vote in plenary on September 14, to be biased and harmful for people selling sex and other vulnerable groups. Download the full open letter below.    

Logo sex workers' rights coalition
news_item

| 11 September 2023

Sex Workers' Rights: Open Letter to MEPs voting on Prostitution Report

Open Letter to Members of the European Parliament Re: Prostitution Report We, the organisations united under the European Coalition on Sex Workers’ Rights and Inclusion, call on all Members of the European Parliament to reject and to vote against the report Regulation of prostitution in the EU: its cross-border implications and impact on gender equality and women’s rights, 2022/2139(INI). Our organisations are leading civil society networks and human rights organisations. We have decades of experience and expertise in addressing women’s rights and gender equality, human rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV, harm reduction, the rights of LGBTI people, digital rights, human trafficking, migration, racial justice and criminal justice. Within these numerous fields of expertise, all 13 organisations have come to the same conclusion: criminalisation of any aspect of sex work, which is proposed by this report, does not protect the rights of women and others engaged in sex work for manifold reasons, and does not help address the very serious issue of human trafficking and forced labour. It is only by adopting a human rights-based approach, decriminalising all aspects of sex work, and meaningfully including sex workers and sex workers’ human rights defenders in decision-making, that people selling sex, including victims of sexual exploitation, can be protected and serious human rights violations against people selling sex experience can be addressed. We consider the submitted report, which will be put to a vote in plenary on September 14, to be biased and harmful for people selling sex and other vulnerable groups. Download the full open letter below.    

#AWW event
news item

| 06 June 2023

#AWorldWhere global access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a reality - campaign launch

Join us on Instagram on June 13 at 4pm CSET, to launch our new campaign #AWorldWhere together with Liana Abdikarimova, IPPF EN youth activist, MEP Alice Kuhnke and Bénédicte Joan, feminist activist from the Ivory Coast. We believe we are members of an interconnected society and what affects one of us, affects us all. Everyone in society has the right to live with dignity and we believe it is our collective responsibility to ensure we all do. During this event, our guests will share their reflections on how the world could look like if sexual and reproductive health and rights needs are met globally and what we need from European policy makers to achieve this. What can you expect? We will be talking about strengthening healthcare systems, achieving gender equality, combatting gender-based violence and how our communities can change for the better if we work together to redesign systems so that they work for everyone. Join our Instagram Live and follow @C2030Europe for updates! This is the first of a series of events under the umbrella of the #AWorldWhere campaign aiming to drive Europe’s global commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights, to meet Sustainable Development Goals targets, advance gender equality and strengthen health systems. #AWorldWhere is a Countdown 2030 Europe initiative driven by 15 leading European non-governmental organisations advocating for sexual and reproductive freedom worldwide.

#AWW event
news_item

| 06 June 2023

#AWorldWhere global access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a reality - campaign launch

Join us on Instagram on June 13 at 4pm CSET, to launch our new campaign #AWorldWhere together with Liana Abdikarimova, IPPF EN youth activist, MEP Alice Kuhnke and Bénédicte Joan, feminist activist from the Ivory Coast. We believe we are members of an interconnected society and what affects one of us, affects us all. Everyone in society has the right to live with dignity and we believe it is our collective responsibility to ensure we all do. During this event, our guests will share their reflections on how the world could look like if sexual and reproductive health and rights needs are met globally and what we need from European policy makers to achieve this. What can you expect? We will be talking about strengthening healthcare systems, achieving gender equality, combatting gender-based violence and how our communities can change for the better if we work together to redesign systems so that they work for everyone. Join our Instagram Live and follow @C2030Europe for updates! This is the first of a series of events under the umbrella of the #AWorldWhere campaign aiming to drive Europe’s global commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights, to meet Sustainable Development Goals targets, advance gender equality and strengthen health systems. #AWorldWhere is a Countdown 2030 Europe initiative driven by 15 leading European non-governmental organisations advocating for sexual and reproductive freedom worldwide.

Justyna ADT
news item

| 15 March 2023

Poland: Justyna gave her closing speech during trial

Justyna Wydrzyńska was charged with supporting Ania, a woman in an abusive relationship, to access abortion pills. A survivor herself of a similar situation to Ania, she took compassionate action to help the woman. Justyna’s efforts were reported to the police by Ania’s controlling husband.  Ania was denied abortion care, but the stress caused her to miscarry. Justyna, a member of Abortion Without Borders and the Abortion Dream Team has been facing a legal battle for more than one year for facilitating an abortion that didn’t happen. Her closing speech in court follows: .... I stand here today because I gave someone my abortion pills. I sent them to another woman. It is an undeniable fact. I’m facing 3 years in prison. I didn’t do it out of my own initiative, because I do not distribute abortion pills. I knew that at that time, Ania was desperate. And I had a set of pills for my own use. The pills which I had for my own use, which I sent to Ania, are now the safest way to terminate a pregnancy in Poland. They are widely used in Europe and across the entire world by millions of people. They do not require anaesthesia, pose no complication risks, are safer than simple medical procedures. I know that from the reports of World Health Organization, which recommends unrestricted access to these pills, mifepristone and misoprostol. There are no contraindications against this. I sent my pills to Ania because I knew that she was in an abusive relationship - just like me a few years earlier. We were both controlled, emotionally blackmailed, lonely. We both have children and we wanted to protect them. I also experienced violence in a relationship. I was controlled, subjected to financial, physical and emotional abuse which were ubiquitous in “my” home. Us women, who experienced domestic violence, know what must be sacrificed to protect the safety of our children above all. I have three kids. Mothers in abusive relationships will do whatever they can for their children to sleep peacefully, for themselves to escape the constant, destructive tension.Us, who survive violence, keep our experiences a secret. We are ashamed of our lack of courage to fight for freedom, of allowing someone to control us. Often we stay - by choice and out of necessity. These obvious facts are tightly linked with the need to control one’s own reproductive autonomy. Living in abuse we often don’t realise that we have lost control over our bodies and the remainder of our lives. Because someone in our home decides for us, often against our will. I got pregnant by a man who hurt me, an abuser, and I terminated this pregnancy because I did not want it. My abortion made me realise I can control my own life, and I can regain that control. I felt that I can make my own decisions, and the fear I felt was not just for my body, but also for freedom which is a superior human right. I got divorced in 2009, after 11 years of marriage. I did it to save myself and my children. But the memories of abuse I went through are still present within me. This is not something you can just forget. And I do not wish this experience upon anyone. My own abortion was a breakthrough for me. I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which any woman is deprived of access to reliable information and simple human support. This has been motivating me in my activism, in my social work. For me this trial is symbolically a trial for anyone who ever provided support to a person in need.  I feel I do not stand here alone. My friends have my back, but so do hundreds of women whom I haven’t yet had the chance to meet. Here, in this courtroom, we touch upon basic human rights, such as the right to self-determination. I have the support of numerous human rights organizations with their vast knowledge on these issues: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Their opinion is clear: I am a human rights defender. And they are not alone in saying this. Catholics for Choice, Belgian Parliament, more than 80 members of the European parliament, high ranking rapporteurs on women’s rights have all approached the Polish parliament stating that I should not be prosecuted. I should never be oppressed for my work protecting women’s life and health. Similarly, the International Foundation of Gynecology and Obstetrics demands my exoneration and stresses that my work is not only safe, but also endorsed by the World Health Organization.  Your honor knows about this, because numerous organisations filed amicus curiae letters in my case. These are not just expert opinions, but also the voices of hundreds of thousands of people who signed a petition to the prosecutor’s office. They all say the same. This trial should never have happened. I am thankful for this support. Yet I am here, Your Honor, sitting in the dock. And this last year has been very difficult for me, my family, for those close to me. I feel I am innocent. What I heard here in this room, the details of Anna’s situation, only convinced me that my actions were right. It made me realize that I should trust my intuition and take the risk of helping those who need it. I would never wish for any woman to be alone in these tough situations, without support, with her family acting against her. I believe that helping another person who asks for support as they fight for their freedom is our duty. It is what makes us human. And I will not abandon it, I will not be ashamed of it or believe that it is a crime. Your honor, we live in a country which doesn’t respect women. The polish anti-abortion law from 1993 was one of the most restrictive in Europe, because it forced people in unwanted pregnancies to have their abortions in secret. For them, activist organizations were the only respite from dangerous methods or peddlers. Initiatives like Abortion Without Borders are doing work which should have been the state’s job for years as part of the healthcare system. I’ve been working in this field for 16 years and witness how the state’s decisions and rulings worsen women’s situation. The anti-abortion law is not only cruel; it is fictitious. The law doesn’t stop people with unwanted pregnancies from terminating them. This is not my opinion - that’s what all abortion research shows, around the world.  A woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant thinks pragmatically; how to access abortion, how much it will cost, can she afford it. And she will have that abortion, regardless of the law and regardless of how safe the method she uses will be. I thought this way, so did Anna, so do 100 000 women in Poland every year, so do Ukrainian refugees. And they are right. After October 22nd, 2020, when the pseudo-tribunal ruled in favor of further restricting abortion access, women whose pregnancies have fetal abnormalities started to go to Netherlands for help. There, it is possible to terminate until the 22nd week of pregnancy. Women with diagnosed fetal abnormalities ask: “do I have to go to a foreign country, feel like a fugitive, why can’t I do it in a hospital here, and then go home as soon as possible?”. Doctors in Dutch clinics simply say: “Polish women are the largest group of foreign patients in our clinics. They have special needs, they are often scarred by their experience with polish hospitals. We need to calm them down and reassure them that they will receive help”. The medical condition of women travelling to Dutch clinics worsens constantly since 2020. There are very many people who need an abortion here and now, who are in danger, not just from the cruel law, medical negligence, cowardice of doctors, but also from being in abusive relationships, under constant supervision. Being free from an unwanted pregnancy allows them to be free from abuse in general.  That’s what it was for me, it was a factor in realising how I am being confined, how much I need freedom and the ability to decide for myself. I wanted the same for Anna. I wanted her to be free and control her life and body.  I didn’t want her to risk her life when the solution was so simple and medically safe  I do not want anyone to go alone through a dangerous process of an unsafe abortion when it is possible to do it safely, without stigma. I don’t want any of us to be forced to abandon her right to freedom and self-determination.   I was driven by the will to help when no one else wanted to or could help. For me, helping Ania was an obvious, decent and honest thing to do. It’s good to be honest, even if it doesn’t always pay off. If I knew more about Ania’s situation, I wouldn’t just have sent her the pills. I would have stayed in touch to support her during the abortion, so she wouldn’t feel alone. So she would have someone who would listen, stay with her, hold her hands. We are here to decide on my guilt. I am not guilty and I will say it out loud: the State is guilty, of abandoning Ania, Iza from Pszczyna, Agnieszka from Częstochowa, and millions of women across the country. I ask the court for acquittal.   Originally published by the Abortion Dream Team here.

Justyna ADT
news_item

| 15 March 2023

Poland: Justyna gave her closing speech during trial

Justyna Wydrzyńska was charged with supporting Ania, a woman in an abusive relationship, to access abortion pills. A survivor herself of a similar situation to Ania, she took compassionate action to help the woman. Justyna’s efforts were reported to the police by Ania’s controlling husband.  Ania was denied abortion care, but the stress caused her to miscarry. Justyna, a member of Abortion Without Borders and the Abortion Dream Team has been facing a legal battle for more than one year for facilitating an abortion that didn’t happen. Her closing speech in court follows: .... I stand here today because I gave someone my abortion pills. I sent them to another woman. It is an undeniable fact. I’m facing 3 years in prison. I didn’t do it out of my own initiative, because I do not distribute abortion pills. I knew that at that time, Ania was desperate. And I had a set of pills for my own use. The pills which I had for my own use, which I sent to Ania, are now the safest way to terminate a pregnancy in Poland. They are widely used in Europe and across the entire world by millions of people. They do not require anaesthesia, pose no complication risks, are safer than simple medical procedures. I know that from the reports of World Health Organization, which recommends unrestricted access to these pills, mifepristone and misoprostol. There are no contraindications against this. I sent my pills to Ania because I knew that she was in an abusive relationship - just like me a few years earlier. We were both controlled, emotionally blackmailed, lonely. We both have children and we wanted to protect them. I also experienced violence in a relationship. I was controlled, subjected to financial, physical and emotional abuse which were ubiquitous in “my” home. Us women, who experienced domestic violence, know what must be sacrificed to protect the safety of our children above all. I have three kids. Mothers in abusive relationships will do whatever they can for their children to sleep peacefully, for themselves to escape the constant, destructive tension.Us, who survive violence, keep our experiences a secret. We are ashamed of our lack of courage to fight for freedom, of allowing someone to control us. Often we stay - by choice and out of necessity. These obvious facts are tightly linked with the need to control one’s own reproductive autonomy. Living in abuse we often don’t realise that we have lost control over our bodies and the remainder of our lives. Because someone in our home decides for us, often against our will. I got pregnant by a man who hurt me, an abuser, and I terminated this pregnancy because I did not want it. My abortion made me realise I can control my own life, and I can regain that control. I felt that I can make my own decisions, and the fear I felt was not just for my body, but also for freedom which is a superior human right. I got divorced in 2009, after 11 years of marriage. I did it to save myself and my children. But the memories of abuse I went through are still present within me. This is not something you can just forget. And I do not wish this experience upon anyone. My own abortion was a breakthrough for me. I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which any woman is deprived of access to reliable information and simple human support. This has been motivating me in my activism, in my social work. For me this trial is symbolically a trial for anyone who ever provided support to a person in need.  I feel I do not stand here alone. My friends have my back, but so do hundreds of women whom I haven’t yet had the chance to meet. Here, in this courtroom, we touch upon basic human rights, such as the right to self-determination. I have the support of numerous human rights organizations with their vast knowledge on these issues: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Their opinion is clear: I am a human rights defender. And they are not alone in saying this. Catholics for Choice, Belgian Parliament, more than 80 members of the European parliament, high ranking rapporteurs on women’s rights have all approached the Polish parliament stating that I should not be prosecuted. I should never be oppressed for my work protecting women’s life and health. Similarly, the International Foundation of Gynecology and Obstetrics demands my exoneration and stresses that my work is not only safe, but also endorsed by the World Health Organization.  Your honor knows about this, because numerous organisations filed amicus curiae letters in my case. These are not just expert opinions, but also the voices of hundreds of thousands of people who signed a petition to the prosecutor’s office. They all say the same. This trial should never have happened. I am thankful for this support. Yet I am here, Your Honor, sitting in the dock. And this last year has been very difficult for me, my family, for those close to me. I feel I am innocent. What I heard here in this room, the details of Anna’s situation, only convinced me that my actions were right. It made me realize that I should trust my intuition and take the risk of helping those who need it. I would never wish for any woman to be alone in these tough situations, without support, with her family acting against her. I believe that helping another person who asks for support as they fight for their freedom is our duty. It is what makes us human. And I will not abandon it, I will not be ashamed of it or believe that it is a crime. Your honor, we live in a country which doesn’t respect women. The polish anti-abortion law from 1993 was one of the most restrictive in Europe, because it forced people in unwanted pregnancies to have their abortions in secret. For them, activist organizations were the only respite from dangerous methods or peddlers. Initiatives like Abortion Without Borders are doing work which should have been the state’s job for years as part of the healthcare system. I’ve been working in this field for 16 years and witness how the state’s decisions and rulings worsen women’s situation. The anti-abortion law is not only cruel; it is fictitious. The law doesn’t stop people with unwanted pregnancies from terminating them. This is not my opinion - that’s what all abortion research shows, around the world.  A woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant thinks pragmatically; how to access abortion, how much it will cost, can she afford it. And she will have that abortion, regardless of the law and regardless of how safe the method she uses will be. I thought this way, so did Anna, so do 100 000 women in Poland every year, so do Ukrainian refugees. And they are right. After October 22nd, 2020, when the pseudo-tribunal ruled in favor of further restricting abortion access, women whose pregnancies have fetal abnormalities started to go to Netherlands for help. There, it is possible to terminate until the 22nd week of pregnancy. Women with diagnosed fetal abnormalities ask: “do I have to go to a foreign country, feel like a fugitive, why can’t I do it in a hospital here, and then go home as soon as possible?”. Doctors in Dutch clinics simply say: “Polish women are the largest group of foreign patients in our clinics. They have special needs, they are often scarred by their experience with polish hospitals. We need to calm them down and reassure them that they will receive help”. The medical condition of women travelling to Dutch clinics worsens constantly since 2020. There are very many people who need an abortion here and now, who are in danger, not just from the cruel law, medical negligence, cowardice of doctors, but also from being in abusive relationships, under constant supervision. Being free from an unwanted pregnancy allows them to be free from abuse in general.  That’s what it was for me, it was a factor in realising how I am being confined, how much I need freedom and the ability to decide for myself. I wanted the same for Anna. I wanted her to be free and control her life and body.  I didn’t want her to risk her life when the solution was so simple and medically safe  I do not want anyone to go alone through a dangerous process of an unsafe abortion when it is possible to do it safely, without stigma. I don’t want any of us to be forced to abandon her right to freedom and self-determination.   I was driven by the will to help when no one else wanted to or could help. For me, helping Ania was an obvious, decent and honest thing to do. It’s good to be honest, even if it doesn’t always pay off. If I knew more about Ania’s situation, I wouldn’t just have sent her the pills. I would have stayed in touch to support her during the abortion, so she wouldn’t feel alone. So she would have someone who would listen, stay with her, hold her hands. We are here to decide on my guilt. I am not guilty and I will say it out loud: the State is guilty, of abandoning Ania, Iza from Pszczyna, Agnieszka from Częstochowa, and millions of women across the country. I ask the court for acquittal.   Originally published by the Abortion Dream Team here.

Anina Takeff
news item

| 07 March 2023

Woman human rights defender in Andorra faces trial for speaking in favor of abortion care

Woman human rights defender, Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, from Andorra could soon face trial for speaking out on women’s rights and the right to abortion before the United Nations (UN). If Vanessa is convicted, she faces a big fine of 30.000 Euros and could have a criminal record.  Vanessa Mendoza Cortés is a psychologist and the president of the women’s rights organization, Stop Violence, (Associació Stop Violències, in Catalan), which focuses on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, and advocates for safe and legal abortion in Andorra. Vanessa has been targeted by her government for the past four years, simply for exercising her right to freedom of expression and criticising the full ban on abortion care in the country. Vanessa spoke in front of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2019, as part of the regular and critical exchange of information conducted between this UN body and human rights defenders around the world.  Following a complaint from the Andorran government, the public prosecutor brought charges against her. While previous charges of defamation, which carried prison sentences, were dropped in 2021, thanks to international pressure, Vanessa continues to be harassed by the prosecution, who is accusing her of crime ‘against the prestige of the institutions’.  

Anina Takeff
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| 07 March 2023

Woman human rights defender in Andorra faces trial for speaking in favor of abortion care

Woman human rights defender, Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, from Andorra could soon face trial for speaking out on women’s rights and the right to abortion before the United Nations (UN). If Vanessa is convicted, she faces a big fine of 30.000 Euros and could have a criminal record.  Vanessa Mendoza Cortés is a psychologist and the president of the women’s rights organization, Stop Violence, (Associació Stop Violències, in Catalan), which focuses on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, and advocates for safe and legal abortion in Andorra. Vanessa has been targeted by her government for the past four years, simply for exercising her right to freedom of expression and criticising the full ban on abortion care in the country. Vanessa spoke in front of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2019, as part of the regular and critical exchange of information conducted between this UN body and human rights defenders around the world.  Following a complaint from the Andorran government, the public prosecutor brought charges against her. While previous charges of defamation, which carried prison sentences, were dropped in 2021, thanks to international pressure, Vanessa continues to be harassed by the prosecution, who is accusing her of crime ‘against the prestige of the institutions’.