Irish women’s rights referendum victory

Irish trade union pro-women's rights banner, photo by Peter Taal/NOS

This photo shows an Irish trade union pro-women’s rights banner. Today, campaigns like this turned out to have won in Ireland.

For decades, the Roman Catholic church, especially the most right-wing tendencies of its hierarchy, was very powerful in Ireland.

That led to the most restrictive anti-abortion law in Europe. It led to scandals. Like forced labour by young women, the ‘Magdalene sisters‘ scandal. Like massive sexual abuse of children by priests, covered up by bishops and by the Vatican. Like mass graves where bodies of children, killed by ill-treatment at religious institutions, were dumped into.

When scandals like that became public, the grip of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the Irish people weakened.

That showed in the results of two referendums. In 2015, a clear majority of Irish voters voted for equal marriage, including for LGBTQ people. This in spite of well-financed homophobic campaigns by the Catholic hierarchy and rich homophobes from the USA and other countries.

And today, the results of another referendum became known. 66%, a big majority, of Irish voters all over the country voted for abolishing the harsh anti-abortion law. Only in one county, Donegal, there was a wafer thin anti-women’s rights majority. This victory came in spite of well-financed misogynist campaigns by the Catholic hierarchy and rich anti-women people from the USA and other countries.

This 26 May 2018 video is called Referendum overturns Ireland’s abortion ban.

Powerful right-wing people usually hate referendums, now that they lose them, even in traditionally conservative Ireland. That’s why the present right-wing Dutch government wants to abolish referendums: they lose them again and again and again.


German doctor convicted by nazi era anti-abortion law

Kristina Hänel and her information leaflet, NOS photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Giving information about abortion in Germany: 6000 euro fine

In an open letter to the German government, doctors, lawyers and trade unions demand an end to a controversial anti-abortion law. Since 1933, since the Nazi time, it is illegal for our eastern neighbours that doctors give public information about abortion. That is seen as ‘advertising’. Even indicating that you do it as a doctor is punishable. This has major consequences for doctors and for women who want an abortion.

Kristina Hänel found that out as well. She is a GP and has specialized as an abortion doctor in the Netherlands. She put a brochure of three pages on her website, in which she informs patients about the process ….

In Germany, various anti-abortion groups are active that monitor all websites of all doctors. They filed a complaint against Hänel. “The judge found that I gave factual information, but according to the law it had to be classified as advertising, and I was sentenced to a 6,000 euro fine.”

She is not the only one. Every year 25 to 30 doctors in Germany are convicted for violating paragraph 219a of the German Penal Code.

The law in question was introduced by the Nazis in 1933. According to Hänel they wanted to make it impossible for Jewish doctors to work because they performed abortions more often than Christian colleagues.

After the war, the Allies retained the law because they could not discover a specific Nazi ideology in it. In many countries, abortion was completely banned at the time, and an advertising ban on something that was forbidden was in their view not illogical.

And although abortion in Germany is now regulated by law, it remains impossible to inform women about it in public. “I think that is absurd and not of this time anymore”, says Hänel.

‘Advisory service’

The effect of the law is also that women can hardly find the addresses of doctors who perform abortions. In theory, they should receive it from the “maternity counseling service”, where you are obliged to go if you want an abortion.

In some regions, the Catholic Church controls that service, and it simply refuses to tell which doctor can perform the operation. Some GPs also refuse to tell it on principle.

The only German website that lists all abortion doctors is a hate site of an anti-abortion activist: There, abortion is compared with the Holocaust. The addresses can be found between bloody images of fetuses.

“I think that’s terrible for women”, says Hänel. Since she is mentioned on that site with name and address (“I am a VIP there”), she is also threatened with death.

End prohibition

A majority of German parties want to delete the notorious paragraph from German law, but Merkel‘s combination of CDU and CSU parties prevents that. Certainly the CSU is taking a very conservative course this year, because the party wants to win the elections in its own federal state of Bavaria [where they are trying to outflank the neofascist AfD party on the right].

Government coalition junior partner the SPD has given Merkel until the autumn to make a change, otherwise they themselves will put it on the agenda. They could cause a crisis in the government coalition. But many Germans wonder if the party will dare to do that. Hänel also: “I have yet to see it”.

She laughs and says that she will keep up her fight anyway. “I am a marathon runner, so I have a long breath, I do not give up.”

See also here.

Abortion referendum in Ireland

This video from the USA says about itself:

14 November 2012

“The debate over legalizing abortion in Ireland flared Wednesday after the government confirmed a miscarrying woman suffering from blood poisoning was refused a quick termination of her pregnancy and died in an Irish hospital.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian living in Galway since 2008 who was 17 weeks along in her pregnancy. The 31-year-old’s case highlights the bizarre legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems in predominantly Catholic Ireland can find themselves.

Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found it should be legalized for situations when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.”*

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the story of Savita Halappanavar, who died after the Catholic hospital

officially, a university hospital

refused her repeated requests for an abortion. Are the strict abortion rules and imposed religious morality upheld by the hospital really viable in today’s age? Where did the idea of this form of “morality” and religion over human life and suffering even originate, and why do people follow it? Cenk Uygur has an answer.

By Dermot Quinn in Ireland:

Irish government calls abortion referendum

23 April 2018

Simon Harris, Health Minister in the Fine Gael-led Irish government, has announced a referendum on May 25 to scrap the notorious Eighth Amendment in the Irish constitution. The so-called “pro life” amendment blocks legal termination of pregnancy in Ireland. Currently women can receive a 14-year jail sentence. A parliamentary committee has recommended allowing terminations and unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

A decision on this minimal concession has split all the major parties and seen repeated twists and turns from leading politicians. Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has elucidated four different positions, while Harris himself, on the conservative wing of Fine Gael, changed his view little more than a year ago. Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin also recently switched to supporting repeal.

Behind the confusion are seething class tensions and the collapse in the authority of the Catholic Church, following the clergy’s involvement in sexual/physical abuse in brutal children’s homes and orphanages. Church attendance in a country where the Church dominates education and health provision has fallen to around 20 percent of the population. In working class areas the figures are reported to be as low as 2 to 3 percent.

The Eighth Amendment was introduced in 1983 after a referendum and three years of protests, rallies and religious vigils orchestrated by right-wing Catholic organisations backed by the Church. Supported by all the major parties, the aim was to copper fasten by national plebiscite Ireland’s already draconian abortion laws.

Passed by a 66.9 percent majority, on a turnout of only 53.7 percent, the 1983 constitutional amendment reads: “The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother guarantees in its laws to defend as far as practicable and vindicate that right.”

The following decades have seen numerous cases in which women have tried to circumvent the reactionary prohibition with terrible emotional, financial and health costs.

In 1992 the High Court ruled that a 14-year-old rape victim could not travel outside Ireland to terminate a pregnancy. The attorney general placed an injunction to prevent her from travelling to Britain. After a public outcry and continuous mass protests outside parliament, the “X case” as it became known, forced the then-Fianna Fail government into holding a series of referenda. These resulted in the freedom to travel outside Ireland for an abortion and the right to information on abortion services being conceded.

In 2010, it was reported that 4,402 women gave Irish addresses to UK abortion clinics in the course of that year. In the same year the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Irish state failed to provide clarity on the legal availability of abortion where the mother’s life was at risk.

In 2011, Amanda Mallet received a scan in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital in 2011 which showed the foetus she was carrying was suffering Edwards syndrome, a fatal condition. Informed by the hospital that she would have to travel to England to terminate the pregnancy she scraped the money together. In 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Commission found that Amanda had been subjected to “discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment due to Ireland’s abortion ban.”

In 2012, Savita Halappanavar died in a Galway hospital of septicaemia from complications arising from her pregnancy. She had repeatedly requested an abortion, which could have saved her life. The 31-year-old Indian woman was told by staff at University Hospital Galway that to procure an abortion was impossible as “this was a Catholic country.”

After a huge public outcry and ongoing protest rallies, Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael government grudgingly introduced the 2014 “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill” allowing for abortion if the women was deemed to be suicidal.

This year’s referendum comes after years of intense campaigns, protests and even a strike demanding abortion rights. Particularly amongst young people, there is broad support for repeal of the reactionary law.

In the face of this, the major parties have moved at the last possible moment towards repeal, while the Church itself and the religious right, in Ireland and internationally, are campaigning aggressively to oppose any change.

Although opinion polls are registering large majorities, 63 to 37 percent in favour of repeal, some 20 percent of voters are undecided. A No campaign began on March 10 with a large rally in Dublin addressed by businessman and millionaire Declan Ganley. One of the most prominent right-wing and conservative voices in Ireland, Ganley told the crowd that “the coming weeks would be a battle between the people and the powerful.”

Another speaker was Niamh Ui Bhriain, who also fraudulently presented the anti-abortion campaign as an uprising against the “elite.” Urging a “No” vote, she claimed, “This is a rising of the people against the elites, and on May 25 it’s time to join a rebellion, and to reject both abortion on demand and the untrustworthy political class.”

A UK-based data-analytics company Kanto Systems has been hired by the “Save the Eight” campaign to work for a “No” vote. Kanto Systems is run by Thomas Borwick, son of former British conservative MP Lady Victoria Borwick. Borwick … has close ties to hedge fund billionaire Tomas Mercer, a key backer of Donald Trump.

It is a measure of the backwardness of the Irish bourgeoisie, inseparably entangled as it is with the Catholic Church, that a struggle on this issue is even necessary. Throughout the entire history of the Irish Free State and the Republic of Ireland the Church has ruthlessly maintained the leading role handed to it on all social matters by all the political representatives of Irish capitalism, who viewed the Church as its pre-eminent ally against the working class.

If the minimal concession over the 8th Amendment is now being made, it is because any further delay would threaten Church influence with an even more rapid collapse. The amendment is also regarded by sections of the bourgeoisie as an obstacle in their attempts to market Ireland internationally as a modern investment location, particularly for tech companies with a young and socially liberal workforce. Ireland currently has the most restrictive reproductive rights regime in Europe.

Even if the 8th Amendment is repealed next month, the new limit of 12 weeks on terminations is still more restrictive than the 24-week limit in operation across the Irish Sea in Britain. Even this can be extended in cases of medical emergency.

The World Socialist Web Site unequivocally defends the right of free and readily accessible abortion on demand, to comprehensive emotional counselling, free contraception advice, free contraceptive provision and advanced sex and sexual health education in schools. This is inseparable from the struggle for decent social conditions for all who want children but fear the economic consequences. Both require immense inroads into the wealth and social power of the ruling oligarchy, in Ireland and internationally and the socialist re-organisation of society.

Women’s rights victory in Chile

This video says about itself:

Chile court lifts total ban on abortion

22 August 2017

After years of debate, Chile’s Constitutional Court has approved a law to legalise abortion in some circumstances.

The development is seen as a major victory for women’s rights groups and President Michelle Bachelet, a former director of UN Women.

Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman reports from Santiago.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Chile: Court upholds women’s right to a safe abortion

Wednesday 23rd August 2017

Judges finally overturn Pinochet dictatorship’s assault on the right to choose

CHILE’S Constitutional Tribunal has partially reinstated women’s right to a safe and legal abortion after the US-backed Pinochet military dictatorship removed it 28 years ago.

Parliamentarians approved a Bill earlier this month allowing a termination when the mother’s life is in danger, the foetus is unviable or the pregnancy is the result of rape.

Despite the majority vote in Congress and widespread public support for the Bill, right-wing MPs filed two requests for review before the tribunal, claiming the law would violate the constitutional guarantee of “protection of the unborn.”

Judges voted six to four on Monday to dismiss both requests and uphold the constitutionality of the new law, handing victory to President Michelle Bachelet, whose government championed the Bill.

“What has prevailed is tolerance and that every woman may make decisions based on her values, religion, principles or real options.

“Today I am proud to say we have fulfilled a fundamental commitment of our government to the women in our country.

“It has been a long battle, fought with the weapons of democracy and dialogue, overcoming barriers and prejudice that prevented hundreds of women in the past from alleviating their suffering.”

Abortion was allowed in some circumstances under Chile’s 1931 health code and hospitals interpreted the maternal harm provision liberally under President Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government to offer virtual termination on demand, but this was outlawed in 1989 under the Washington-installed dictatorship.

The dictatorship, backed by the Catholic Church, argued that abortion was no longer necessary because of advances in modern medicine.

Legislators have introduced over a dozen bills to partly legalise abortion since 1991, but all have been shelved or rejected.

Until now, Chile was one of four countries in the Americas that banned abortion under all circumstances.

This video. om how the situation was until this recent decision, says about itself:

Chile: where all abortion is illegal

14 August 2015

Special report from Chile on the young girls who are forced to go through with pregnancies even if it’s the result of incest or rape, or to buy illegal abortion pills on the black market. Guillermo Galdos reports from Chile – which has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.

Irish women’s victory against wobbly Conservative-fundamentalist British government

This video from India says about itself:

Abortion row: I get my strength from Savita, says husband

26 November 2012

As the probe continues into the death of his wife Savita, who was denied an abortion in Ireland, Praveen Halappanavar tells NDTV that he has no faith and trust in the inquiry and that it is a cover-up. He also recounts memories of how Savita was looking forward to being a mother.

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Queen’s Speech: Tories forced to allow free abortions for Northern Irish women

Friday 30th June 2017

Landmark decision forced by Labour attack

A LANDMARK decision was taken yesterday to allow women travelling from Northern Ireland to have free abortions as the government scrambled to deal with Labour challenges to the Queen’s Speech.

Labour MP Stella Creasy had previously tabled an amendment to let Northern Irish women have free abortions via the NHS in England, as they are barred in Northern Ireland except where the mother’s life or mental health is in danger.

And in the face of overwhelming pressure the government fudged a solution by “refusing” free NHS abortions — but paying for them using government equalities office funding instead.

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement offers a face-saving sop to the 10 MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which the government relies on to maintain its majority.

The Northern Irish party, which has a hardline antiabortion stance, would have been placed in an awkward position during the final Commons vote on the government’s legislative programme if the amendment had stood.

Following Mr Hammond’s announcement Ms Creasy withdrew her proposal and tweeted: “Sisters in Northern Ireland we will hear your voices — have asked for speedy meeting with govt to make this a reality!

“Thank you to MPs on all sides who supported call for change to help Northern Irish women have equal access to abortion.”

A British Pregnancy Advisory Service spokeswoman said: “We are absolutely delighted that the government has committed to funding abortion care for women who travel from Northern Ireland to England.

“This is a landmark moment: for years the women of Northern Ireland, despite being UK citizens and taxpayers, have not been entitled to NHS-funded treatment.

“Clearly this is not the solution to the gross injustice whereby women in Northern Ireland are denied access to abortion care at home, and we look forward to seeing progress on that front.

“Nevertheless this is an important moment, and we commend all those who have worked so hard to make this happen.”

So desperate is May that the government was forced to make a last minute agreement to help Northern Irish women forced to pay privately in England for abortions. This was in order to stymie a proposed Labour amendment aimed at challenging Northern Ireland’s extremely restrictive abortion laws. If passed, it would have thrown the Tory agreement into danger as the DUP is anti-abortion: here.

ABORTION rights campaigners hit out at a “deeply disappointing” appeal court ruling yesterday that it is for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide whether women should be allowed to have pregnancies terminated. … Alliance 4 Choice told the Star it was “a day of highs and lows for women in Northern Ireland seeking free safe legal access to abortion,” adding: “We will continue to campaign for free safe and legal access to abortion in Northern Ireland”: here.

SINN FEIN announced yesterday that talks aiming to re-establish a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland had collapsed, blaming the failure to reach an agreement on the DUP’s recent pact with the Tories: here.

British homophobic coalition government, parody song

This 28 June 2017 satiric music video from Britain is called Westminsterlife – “DUP Town Girl”.

It is about the homophobic and anti-women Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, which has just signed an agreement with the wobbly British Conservative minority government of Theresa May.

It is a parody of the song Uptown Girl, by Westlife. The song is originally by Billy Joel.

It says about itself:

DUP town girl, get an abortion and you’ll go to hell
And if you just so happen to be gay
The Lord will come on down and he will say,
“I’m gonna smite you

We’ve got a covenant for government enshrined
A billion smackers for confidence and supply
Old Testament is back
Listen, Mac
Whip goes crack

On a DUP town girl who thinks that evolution made the world
And that it’s under threat from climate change
Have you heard anything so deranged?
She’s fucking strange

DUP town girl, you know we can’t afford to buy her pearls
Oh hang on, now we can, ‘cause now we’re rich
Theresa May has signed up to be our bitch

Facebook censorship on women’s reproductive rights

Kim Phuc just after the bombing, photo by Nick Ut

In September 2016, Facebook censored this famous 1972 photo, of Vietnamese children burnt by napalm bombing, including Kim Phuc, then a 9-year-old badly injured girl.

Facebook deleted the photo from, eg, the Facebook page of Norwegian conservative Prime Minister Ms Erna Solberg.

Now, more Facebook antics.

By Jon Queally in the USA:

May 12, 2017

Access Denied: Facebook Blocks Abortion Pill Provider’s Page for ‘Promotion of Drug Use’

‘WTF Facebook?!’ say supporters of international group that provides reproductive health information and access to abortion pills in countries where it remains illegal

As of late Thursday night, Facebook has yet to explain why it has blocked the page of a women’s health organization that provides abortion counseling and drug access to thousands of women across the globe each day. And reproductive rights advocates from around the world are not happy about it.

News that the Facebook page operated by Women on Web, which runs a global help desk for women seeking information on ending pregnancies safely and provides access to abortion pills, was first reported by its sister organization, Women on Waves, which operates a boat that travels the world providing medical care, including abortions, in places where access to such services for women is limited, highly restricted, or banned outright.

As their Facebook page remained active, Women on Waves on Thursday morning posted a message—alongside a screenshot of the notice received from Facebook which said the page had violated terms of service—to alert people to what had happened.

“Dear all,” the post reads, “our sister organization @WomenOnWeb.IF has been unpublished by Facebook under the accusation of ‘encouragement of drug use.'”

Defending its partner, the post described how the group, which is based in Amsterdam, “provides life-saving information to thousands of women worldwide” and that its page on Facebook “publishes news, scientific information and the protocols of the World Health Organization and Women on Web has answered over half a million emails with women who needed scientific, accurate information essential for their health and life.”

Supporters of the groups who commented on the post were outraged. “What the hell?” said one in reaction. Someone else added, “WTF Facebook?!”

Another suggested it was part of a larger and more troubling trend. “I’ve seen a lot of this lately,” the person wrote. “Extreme conservatives using loopholes in the fb algorithm processes to bully various pages and groups.”

Women on Web subsequently posted this message to its Twitter account:

‘Our FB page has been unpublished under the accusation of “encouraging drug use”. WoW is a reliable source of life-saving info to thousands.’

The Independent, which first reported the story, said that a Facebook spokesperson was “investigating the incident.” Later reporting by the Guardian said the social media giant did not immediately respond to its request for comment, nor was response given to requests submitted for this article.

As of this writing, the group’s Facebook page remains unavailable …

It still was at the time of making this blog post.

As the Guardian reports, this is not the first time that Women on Web has had problems with Facebook:

In January 2012, Facebook deleted the profile photograph of the group’s founder and director, Dr Rebecca Gomperts. The image contained instructions for inducing an abortion using Misoprostol. Gomperts was locked out of her account for two days after re-posting the image, but Facebook subsequently apologized and reinstated both the image and her account.

Thursday’s incident comes amid increased worries that large social media and web platforms—which have come to dominate the way digital content is shared and monetized on the web—are having an outsized and unaccountable role in how information is managed and controlled by private, for-profit corporations.

On Wednesday, Facebook announced new protocols regarding how it plans to deal with what it deems “low-quality web page experiences.” And while all people might agree they want to see less “low-quality” material or information on the web, serious concerns about censorship and bias quickly emerge when discussion moves towards what gets classified as “low-quality” and, perhaps more importantly, who gets to decide what meets that definition.

For its part, Women on Waves said it believed Facebook would rectify the situation with its sister organization before long.

“We expect Facebook will undue this action soon enough,” the group said in its post, “as access to information is a human right.”

Meanwhile on Twitter, users of one social media platform were condemning the behavior of another platform as they demanded Facebook reinstate the Women on Web page immediately.

Facebook violates privacy, Dutch privacy watchdog says: here.

Trump has dramatically expanded the “global gag rule” on abortion.