GDC has issued a series of statements against violations of patients’ human rights and political incursions on the professional duties and obligations of physicians to advocate on behalf of patients’ best interests.
Costa Rican College of Doctors and Surgeons
Global Doctors for Choice wrote to the Colegio de Médicos y Cirujanos de Costa Rica and urged them to reconsider the language included in their recent “Official Declaration about Abortion” as this declaration does not follow medical or scientific evidence.
We emphasized the difference between conscientious objection – a privilege that should be handled responsibly and that cannot intrude on others’ basic rights – and obstruction of care – an unethical and illegal practice.
We also highlighted that conscientious objection has limits: objecting doctors must provide patients with scientifically accurate information, make referrals to willing and available alternative doctors, and provide the contested service if no one else can do it or if the patient is in an emergency.
Additionally, only individuals involved in direct healthcare provision (e.g., not those involved with follow-up care, making the appointment, ordering supplies, etc.) can conscientiously object.
Finally, we outlined the circumstances in which conscientious objection may not be invoked:
a) in case of need for abortion because of life threatening pregnancy associated complications;
b) in any legally permissible abortion situation, in the absence of another physician doing so and when the woman can suffer damage or health problems due to the doctor’s omission; and
c) in the attendance of complications derived from unsafe abortion.
We also shared this letter with the Ombudsman’s Office, the national institution responsible for monitoring legality and human rights.
GDC, along with numerous other leading reproductive health rights organizations, signed and sent a letter initiated by Catholics for Choice to Pope Francis addressing his recent inflammatory and dangerous remarks about abortion. The objective of this letter is to publicly explain why it is unacceptable for a leader to attack people providing healthcare in service to some of the most marginalized and ignored among the world’s poor.
Global Doctors for Choice wrote to political leaders in El Salvador to urge the release of Imelda Cortez. Imelda Cortez was accused of attempted aggravated homicide and currently is imprisoned, despite a lack of medical evidence and despite violating conventions and treaties ratified by El Salvador – specifically that a person who has not been convicted may not be imprisoned, unless they are deemed a flight risk.
Imelda Cortez claims that she did not know she was pregnant, as she experienced vaginal bleeding for nine months and was told by her stepfather, who repeatedly raped her and was the proven biological father of the pregnancy, that he was infertile.
After examining Imelda Cortez and the infant, the Institute of Legal Medicine (IML) confirmed that a child birth had occurred, no action was taken to provoke a birth, it was a natural birth, and there appeared to be no intent to harm to the infant (e.g., the infant appeared to be full term with a gestational age of 38-40 weeks, was well-hydrated, and was and continues to be in good health).
Global Doctors for Choice supported CLACAI’s National Campaign for Free, Safe and Accessible Abortion in Puerto Rico, and sent a letter to political leaders urging them to vote against Senate Bill 950, which will limit access to free and safe abortion in Puerto Rico.
Senate Bill 950 aims to restrict access to safe abortion services in Puerto Rico and to confuse and intimidate women to direct their reproductive decision-making. Most of the measures in the proposed bill are based on false statements and without scientific evidence and are loaded with moral connotations that put at risk the health and life of women.
Global Doctors for Choice sent a letter to urging the Polish President, Speaker of the Sejm, the Prime Minister, the Parliamentary Committee, and the Parliamentary Clubs to vote against the Stop Abortion Bill, which would ban abortions in cases involving fetal impairments.
Currently, Poland allows abortions when a woman’s life or health is threatened, when a pregnancy results from a crime, and when tests indicate a high probability of incurable disease or irreparable disability in a fetus.
The draft bill would eliminate the third condition, which accounts for 95% of abortions provided in Poland.
Global Doctors for Choice signed two petitions to the Thai government initiated by Choice Network Thailand, Women’s Wellbeing and Gender Justice Program, the Sexualities Studies Association, and the Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
The first petition asks the Thai Department of Health to clarify, publicize, and provide accurate information about abortion, which is safe and legal in Thailand to help women understand the legality and more easily and safely access abortions. The second petition demands that the State Council and the Constitutional Court decriminalize abortion by repealing Section 301 of the criminal code.
These petitions aim to protect women’s health and rights and also protect and encourage doctors and nurses who provide abortion services.
Global Doctors for Choice signed a collaborative statement, initiated by the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, in response to the proposal to criminalize abortion (except for pregnancies diagnosed with a severe or fatal fetal anomaly).
Together we called on the Polish government to listen to women, protect their health and rights, and not approve this bill.
In light of Canada hosting the G7 conference in June 2018, Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) signed a collaborative appeal to the Canadian Prime Minister to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights remain on the G7 agenda.
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, along with the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, CARE Canada, and the Climate Action Network – Canada crafted this collaborative appeal to request three specific issues be addressed:
- supporting refugees, migrants, and displaced peoples,
- tackling climate change and its impacts on poor and marginalized communities, and
- ensuring the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people
These issues have often evaded consensus among G7 leaders, and recent trends suggest this will continue to be a challenge. This appeal calls on the Canadian government to not only to defend progress achieved in recent years and decades on these issues, but also to create opportunity to address remaining gaps in the future.
Global Doctors for Choice wrote wrote to the President of the Brazilian Supreme Court to oppose the recent Proposal PEC 181/2015, which was approved November 8, 2017 by a Special Commission of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies (in a vote of 18 men against 1 woman). This proposal includes a claim that life begins at conception, and thus if passed would threaten women’s right to legal abortion in Brazil.
If PEC 181/2015 were to be adopted, access to abortion services would become illegal again for women whose pregnancies involve serious health risks, are pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or are carrying a fetus with a serious abnormality.
Global Doctors for Choice signed a collaborative letter by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), and the International Women’s Health Coalition regarding the six-month review of the Global Gag Rule. The letter highlighted the damage caused by the Global Gag Rule and urged the U.S. President Trump administration to rescind this policy.
Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) stood in solidarity with the British Medical Association’s vote to completely decriminalize abortion and shared a letter of support with the BMA to help their cause.
Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) urged the South African government to reject the abortion bill proposed by the ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party). Currently South Africa has one of the most liberal abortion laws and the proposed bill would restrict access to safe, legal abortion. Public health and women’s health, particularly poor and black women in rural areas, would suffer.
Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) requested the Indian Supreme Court overturn the decision to not allow an abortion for the 10-year old girl who is a victim of repeated rapes. Abortions are safe when provided by a trained professional, yet carrying a pregnancy to term and experiencing labor and delivery is unsafe physically and developmentally for such a young child.
Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) wrote to the Chilean Constitutional Court to support the passage of bill No. 9.895 – 11 that proposed to decriminalize abortion in three circumstances: 1) when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, 2) when the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life, or 3) when the pregnancy has a fatal fetal anomaly. August 3, 2017 Chile’s Congress passed this bill and will now go to the Supreme Court to determine the bill’s legality.
Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) urged the El Salvadorean president of the legislative assembly and the president of the commission of legislation and constitutional points to overturn the conviction of aggravated homicide and the associated 30-year prison sentence for Evelyn Beatriz.
As her lawyers stated, this young woman was a victim of repeated rapes, which she did not report out of fear and lack of support. She was unaware that she had become pregnant as a result of rape, until she experienced a miscarriage. Finally, the lawyers stated the two expert witnesses, one responsible for the autopsy and one responsible for the pathology, reported that the presence of meconium in the bronchia could have been a cause of death.
When Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) heard about a movement to criminalize abortion for fetal abnormalities, GDC proactively urged the Polish President, Speaker of the Sejm (Polish Parliament), and Prime Minister to protect current legality of abortions for fetal abnormalities and to reject any future proposals to change this.
Receiving a diagnosis of a fetal abnormality can be a catastrophic and traumatic experience for a woman. Forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy with a fetal abnormality increases both the physical and psychological pain and suffering, and the trauma of the experience and imposes health risks on the woman. Any attempt to force women to continue a pregnancy and continue to experience pain and trauma would constitute a violation of these women’s human rights.
In support of an initiative by two Brazilian groups – el Partido Socialismo e Liberdade (PSOL) and Anis – Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) sent a letter to the Brazilian Supreme Court urging the decriminalization of abortion in Brazil.
According to these two Brazilian groups, the criminalization of abortion does not hold up under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. The Brazilian Magna Carta ensures the dignity and citizenship of all people as a fundamental right.
By criminalizing abortion, these rights are not honored – as women are denied bodily autonomy, risk being incarcerated, and only have access to clandestine abortion services which may cause physical and psychological harm and even death.
Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) urged the Polish President, Speaker of the Sejm (Polish Parliament), and Prime Minister to not sign a bill that would end the availability of over-the-counter emergency contraception.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommends that the drug ellaOne, which can be used safely and effectively without a doctor’s consultation to prevent pregnancy, should be available without prescription in all European countries.
Emergency contraception allows women to prevent unintended pregnancies, particularly when other methods of birth control have failed, after a sexual assault, or due to other unforeseen circumstances.
Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) sent a welcome letter to Leo Varadkar, the new Irish Taoiseach (or Prime Minister), encouraging him to listen to the Citizen Assembly and take action to decriminalize abortion.
With 87% of the Citizen Assembly believing the 8th Amendment must change, their vote to legalize abortion for any reason up to either 12 or 22 weeks of pregnancy, and their vote to legalize abortion when the pregnant person’s physical and mental health was at risk, if the pregnancy had a fetal impairment, and for socio-economic reasons, it is imperative for this new leader to listen to his constituents and protect women’s lives.
Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) joined the recent movement among reproductive health and human rights agencies and petitioned the El Salvadorian government to decriminalize abortion for four instances: when the pregnancy threatens the life of the woman, threatens the woman’s mental or physical health, has a malformation incompatible with life, and/or is the product of sexual violence, rape, or incest.
From 2005 to 2008, the El Salvadorian Ministry of Health counted 19,290 clandestine abortions; yet others estimate that this figure is the annual average. According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 data, 11% of the women and girls in El Salvador who obtained a clandestine abortion died. Additionally, suicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant adolescents.
Currently, the El Salvadoran law does not allow abortion under any circumstances, not even when a doctor considers it necessary to save the woman’s life. The only way to protect medical practice, public health, and the lives of women and girls in El Salvador is to legalize abortion.
Global Doctors for Choice signed onto a collaborative advocacy statement, written by a variety of youth-led and sexual and reproductive health rights groups, that urges the Polish government to comply with its human right obligations.
This statement urges the Polish government to dismiss the “Stop Abortion” draft bill and to take immediate action to ensure women’s reproductive rights by securing access to safe, legal abortion services throughout the country for all women without stigmatization, intimidation, victimization, or discrimination, to track the number and conditions of illegal abortions, and to ensure access to sexual education and modern contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Global Doctors for Choice petitioned three members of the Spanish Ministry of the Interior to reconsider their recent decision that revoked the Spanish Federation of Family Planning’s (FPFE)’s status as a public utility. As a public utility FPFE provided family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare information, advice, and training to underserved populations such as youth, youth with intellectual disabilities, and immigrants. The recent decision to revoke FPFE’s status as public utility has serious repercussions for the people they serve and who rely on their services.
Global Doctors for Choice requested that the Honorable Judges of El Salvador affirm Judge Rogel Zepeda’s decision to overturned Maria Teresa Rivera’s conviction and released her from prison. After having a miscarriage, Maria Teresa Rivera was sentenced to 40 years in prison for abortion-related charges. She served five years of this 40 year prison sentence.
Global Doctors for Choice urged Poland’s President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of the House to vote against a bill that proposed to amend the Act of Family Planning, Protection of the Human Foetus and Conditions of Pregnancy Termination and related Acts. The Committee “Stop Abortion” proposed this bill that ultimately would criminalize abortion in all circumstances, including for women with severe illnesses, who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or who have pregnancies with severe genetic or other anomalies. If this bill were to pass, women would be forced to continue such pregnancies to full term and experience labor and delivery. This would result in serious physical and psychological pain and suffering for Polish women and constitute a violation of these women’s human rights.
When a decision was made to reverse the legalization abortion for three circumstances, Global Doctors for Choice wrote to the President of the Dominican Republic, President Constitutional Court, President of the House of Representatives, and President of the Senate and urged them to reinstate the previous legalization of abortion in these three circumstances.
GDC wrote to the Minister of Health, the President of the Chilean OBGYN society, the President of the Senate and the President of the House of Representatives to express support for a bill that would decriminalize abortion in three circumstances.
GDC wrote to the Minister of Public Health and Welfare to urge him to permit an abortion for a 10 year old girl who was raped by her stepfather.
When a bill was introduced into the Spanish parliament that would require 16 and 17 year young women to obtain parental consent before legally terminating a pregnancy, GDC wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Health, Social Services and Equality, and the Vice President of the Government urging them to reject the bill as harmful to women’s health.
After some 3000 doctors and medical students in Poland signed the “Declaration of Faith of Medical Doctors and Students on Human Sexuality and Fertility,” stating that contraception, abortion, IVF, and sex reassignment are unacceptable and pledging to deny any such treatments or procedures, GDC wrote to the Polish Minister of Health and the President of the Medical Council to urge them to remember their duties to patients’ health.
In September of 2013, GDC wrote to the president of the Health Commission of Chile, calling on the Chilean goverment to authorize an abortion for “Belen,” an 11 year old girl who was impreganted by her stepfather.
GDC wrote a letter to the Minister of Health of El Salvador urging immediate care be given to Beatriz, a young woman with lupus whose pregnancy was endangering her life.
In May 2013, GDC wrote a letter to the Irish Parliament expressing concern regarding Ireland’s proposed bill, “The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.”
In July 2012, GDC sent a letter to the Polish Parliament to advocate making safe, legal abortion more accessible. The letter also encourages the Parliament to expand access to contraception and comprehensive fact-based reproductive health education.
In March 2012, GDC sent a letter to the President of the Congress of the Republic of Honduras decrying the ban on emergency contraception in Honduras.
In November 2012, GDC wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Ireland, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, urging the reform of Irish abortion laws following the death of Savita Halappanavar, who was denied life-saving medical care.
In August 2011, GDC wrote to the Prime Minister of Poland to express concern about the scientific basis for, and health consequences of, the draft text of a new abortion bill, “The law on changing the law on family planning, protection of the human fetus and conditions for legal abortion.”
In February 2010, GDC called on the government of Nicaragua and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to authorize state-of-the-art medical treatment for “Amalia,” a pregnant woman diagnosed with metastatic cancer.
In March 2009, two Brazilian physicians were excommunicated by the Catholic Church for performing a legal abortion for a 9-year-old pregnant with twins following rape/incest. GDC issued a statement in support of these two physicians and their commitment to serve their patient.
After the murder of Dr. George Tiller in May 2009, GDC urged the US government to take the necessary steps to protect providers of legal abortion services.
Brazil and Poland
GDC submitted amici briefs to the European and Inter-American Courts of Human Rights regarding maternal mortality cases resulting from deprivation of care in Brazil and Poland.
In the case of Z v. Poland, below is a short excerpt of the statement GDC wrote to the European Court of Human Rights.
“One objective of Global Doctors for Choice’s work is to ensure that the international human rights systems, including the Council of Europe, and the Inter-American and UN systems, promote and protect women’s health. … The ruling in this case will have significant implications for women’s rights to life, to private life, and to equality and nondiscrimination…Global Doctors for Choice seeks leave to provide the Court with a written intervention addressing the evidence-based medical standards concerning the treatment of pregnant women who have ulcerative colitis or similar diseases. It will also provide the court with examples of medical standards from Council of Europe Member States regarding maternal treatment and fetal well-being.”
In August 2009, at the request of the South America advisory committee, GDC wrote to the Colombian government urging them not to narrow the grounds for seeking legal abortion as a result of rape.