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Coronavirus: Women denied abortions because of the pandemic

BBC News, 24. 6. 2020

In some European countries, hospitals have stopped performing abortions. In others, where abortion is severely restricted, women have been unable to travel to get treatment elsewhere. In the past few weeks we’ve spoken to women who have resorted to backstreet abortions, and others left with no choice but to continue with unwanted pregnancies. Human rights organisations are now urging countries to make sure abortions are safely available.

See the BBC News report about the current struggle of women in some European countries to get abortions during the pandemic, due to restrictions of leading decision-makers. The reporters found a similar situation in countries across Europe – in Romania, Italy, Croatia, and Slovakia. According to Jean Mackenzie, the BBC Europe Correspondent, “in these countries it had been already difficult for women to get an abortion, and this crisis has just put more obstacles in their way”.

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Denied beds, pain relief and contact with their babies: the women giving birth amid Covid-19

The Guardian, 28. 5. 2020

Following reports worldwide, experts are warning that pandemic is pushing back progress on prenatal and maternity care

After Denisa’s son was born premature at 26 weeks she was unable to hold him, but spent as much time as possible near his incubator so he could get used to her voice. By the time he was well enough to be held by his mother, a state of emergency had been declared in Slovakia and Denisa was told to vacate her bed and leave the hospital to make way for Covid-19 patients.

The rush of patients never came, but strict rules meant she was unable to see her baby until he was discharged six weeks later. “Instead of a hug, I went home empty-handed only with my head full of questions,” she says. “Each day without my baby was taking away my strength and harming my mental health.”

Unable to have a birth companion, coerced into undergoing medical interventions, denied pain relief and separated from their newborns. This is the new reality for expectant and new mothers in many countries, as experts warn the coronavirus outbreak is leading to an infringement of women’s birth rights. Continue reading

COVID-19: Ensure women’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights

Council of Europe, 7. 5. 2020

Statement by Commissioner Dunja Mijatović

It is already clear that the pandemic will deepen existing gender inequalities, given women’s over-representation in professions (and other unpaid activities) which expose them to a high risk of infection and in low-paid and precarious jobs which will be particularly badly affected by the ensuing economic crisis. Worryingly, the lockdown imposed in several European countries has also increased the exposure of women to gender-based violence, in particular domestic violence and sexual violence. While many member states are taking laudable measures in an attempt to mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on women’s rights and gender equality, they should not neglect women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Full respect of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is an essential component of Council of Europe member states’ obligations to guarantee women’s human rights and advance gender equality. Continue reading

Joint civil society statement on COVID-19 and abortion

NGOs, 23. 4. 2020

Today, we addressed the president of the SR, the president of the Slovakian parliament and the prime minister an appeal not to misuse the current COVID-19 pandemic for further restrictions in women´s human rights in the area of sexual and reproductive health. On the contrary, it is necessary to  guarantee their safe and timely access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, goods, and information in this situation.
 
The Joint civil society statement (8 April 2020):

European governments must ensure safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis is presenting grave challenges for health care systems across Europe. As European countries work to address the pandemic, protect their populations, and meet the increased demand on health care workers and health care facilities it is vital that they adopt measures to safeguard the health, human dignity, physical and mental integrity, and reproductive autonomy of women and girls in the region. Continue reading

Public Defender of Rights: Access to sexual and reproductive health services during the COVID-19 pandemic

PDOR, 22. 4. 2020

Related to the providing of adequate services in the area of sexual and reproductive health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Defender of Rights (PDOR) Mária Patakyová addressed minister of healthcare Marek Krajčí. Medialised information as well as NGOs reports show that doctors in some healthcare facilities in Slovakia refuse to perform abortions in the current situation. Hereby below, we present the full statement of the PDOR:

Media reports as well as reports from NGOs show that some health care facilities in Slovakia restricted women’s right to a birth companion of her choice during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, some health care facilities deny women access to pain relief (epidural analgesia), or perform caesarean section, or separate women from their newborns without proper medical indication. Some doctors are using the COVID-19 pandemic to suspend abortion care.

The Public Defender of Rights is concerned that these practices are not in line with international human rights standards and World Health Organization´s guidelines. Continue reading

Appeal for compliance with healthcare standards in childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic

ODZ + ŽK, 30. 3. 2020

An open letter to relevant government & public authorities, institutions and health care facilities

Non-governmental organisations Ženské kruhy (Women’s Circles) and Občan, demokracia a zodpovednosť (Citizen, Democracy and Accountability) have for several years been documenting violations of women’s human rights during childbirths in Slovak hospitals. Health care provided to women in connection with childbirth is emergency medical care and its provision must be in line with the relevant standards, even at a time of epidemics. Pregnant and birthing women represent a specific group of vulnerable population which deserves special attention. However, the relevant government institutions and the measures they have adopted so far pay almost no attention to the situation of pregnant and birthing women.
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Dubravka Šimonović presented her report on violence against women

The UN General Assembly, 4. 10. 2019

On Friday October 4th, 2019, Dubravka Šimonović, the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on violence against women, its causes and consequences, presented her report on human rights approach to mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services with a focus on childbirth and obstetric violence. The report describes current manifestations of violence and other mistreatment of women during providing obstetric care in healthcare facilities all over the world. It addresses States with recommendations how to effectively solve system problems in this field. The report was submitted to the Human Rights Council pursuant to General Assembly resolution 71/170. It was presented and discussed at the 74th session of the UN Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). Continue reading

The UN Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonović released the report on violence against women

The UN General Assembly, 11. 7. 2019

Dubravka Šimonović, the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on violence against women, its causes and consequences, submitted the report analysing the issue of mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services with a focus on childbirth and obstetric violence, as well as the root causes and structural issues that need to be addressed to combat such forms of mistreatment and violence. The report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 71/170. Continue reading

Mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive health care with a focus on childbirth

ODZ + ZK, 20. 5. 2019

Here below, find the Joint submission to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women by our NGO Občan, demokracia a zodpovednosť (Citizen, Democracy and Accountability) and Ženské kruhy (Women’s Circles), May 2019:

Občan, demokracia a zodpovednosť (Citizen, Democracy and Accountability – CDA) and Ženské kruhy (Women’s Circles) present this submission to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women for its consideration in the context of Mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive health care with a focus on childbirth.

CDA (www.odz.sk) is an independent civic association that promotes the values of open society based on civic responsibility and the accountability of public authorities. One of CDA’s primary aims is to assert everyone’s rights to human dignity and to protection from discrimination, as well as to assert the human rights of women. Women’s circles (www.zenskekruhy.sk) is an independent civic association focusing on the field of maternity care and the rights therein. One of the goals is that respect, dignity and the freedom of choice for women in pregnancy and childbirth would become self-evident. Continue reading

Istanbul ratification still nowhere in sight

The Slovak Spectator, 19. 4. 2018

The international document preventing violence against women was one of the reasons why a former justice minister left the government.

Thousands of people protested against the international convention to prevent violence against women, but the government ratified it anyway. That is last week’s news from Croatia, where the protest in the city of Split on April 12 did not stop the parliament from giving the green light to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention. Slovakia signed the convention under the government of Iveta Radičová in 2011 but the governments that followed, all led by Smer, have been reluctant to ratify the document, along with nine other EU countries. Continue reading