African women fight back against forced, coerced sterilizations
NAIROBI, November 15, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of HIV-positive women in Kenya have launched a series of lawsuits in five countries after they were sterilized against their will following childbirth. Cases are pending before the courts in Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, and Namibia.
In many of the cases the women were told by government-sponsored health facilities that sterilization was mandatory for HIV-positive women. Some were threatened with the withdrawal of antiretroviral drugs, treatment that prolongs the life of HIV-infected patients.
A report has been published by an independent NGO interviewing women who had experienced coerced or even forced sterilizations.
It shows that 75 percent of the forced sterilizations were conducted in public hospitals where women were often presented with consent documents to sign while in the midst of labor pains. Some said they were unconscious at the time and never signed any forms, while others say they were illiterate and could not understand what was being presented to them.
Some say that the consent forms were presented to them but that they were told that sterilization was mandatory for HIV-positive births.
According to the report “Robbed of Choice: Forced and Coerced Sterilization Experiences of Women Living with HIV in Kenya” by the African Gender and Media Initiative, forced sterilization is unnecessary, since mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be prevented using antiretroviral drugs and “modified obstetric and infant feeding practices”.
The study, which was conducted between October and November 2011 in Nairobi and Kakamega, interviewed about 40 women.
The group, which fully supports voluntary sterilization and the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection, said, “Forced and coerced contraceptive sterilization violates numerous rights guaranteed under the Kenyan constitution and multiple regional and international obligations that Kenya is signatory to.”
The women interviewed for the report said they had undergone “non-consensual tubal ligation when they visited health facilities to give birth through cesarean section. Others, who had normal delivery, were also later taken to the operating room for the procedure to be done”.
Among the groups cited by women in the report and in news investigations are Medicin Sans Frontiers and Marie Stopes International.
Marie Stopes issued a statement saying that informed consent is “fundamental” to its practice and that the report sampling was “a very small and…unrepresentative”.
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Most of the women were in their mid-twenties, and said that after sterilization men would not consider marrying them.
“Most of the men who have approached me for marriage want children. The moment they realize l cannot have babies, they leave,” Ruth Achieng, a survivor of the coerced sterilization who lives in Nairobi, told AllAfrica.com.
Others described the disintegration of their marriages after the procedure. Jones Imbwanga, one of the plaintiffs, described her loneliness CBC Radio in an interview, “I feel like the whole world wants to swallow me.”
In some cases, the women, most of whom were poor, were told that sterilisation was required as a condition for receiving free or reduced-price medical treatment or receiving food and medical aid for their children, especially milk and anti-retroviral medications. Some were told by doctors that they already had too many children and therefore permanent and irreversible contraception was necessary. Others were threatened with having their supply of antiretroviral drugs stopped if they did not consent to the procedure.
The report quotes the United Nations Human Rights Committee that calls “sterilization of women without their consent as a violation of the right to be free from torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment”. “Women living with HIV have a right to a family planning method of their choice and right to be sexually active and bear children,” they said.
Winfred Lichuma of the National Gender and Equality Commission described what happened to the women as “atrocious an infringement of their human rights and contrary to medical ethics”. The group also says that forced sterilisation is considered a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute and is prosecutable by the International Criminal Court.
The prevalence of involuntary sterilisation of HIV-positive women was highlighted this summer when Namibia’s High Court ruled in July that government health facilities had violated the rights of three women who had been sterilized without their free, full, and informed consent. The women had launched their suit in 2009.
One woman told the judge that she had been approached with consent forms while she was in extreme pain from labour. The judge called it “inappropriate” to seek consent while a woman is in active labor. The plaintiffs had not received sufficient counseling about the sterilization procedure in a language they could understand, according to a report by the group Stop Torture in Health Care.
Nicole Fritz, from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in Johannesburg, which brought the Namibian suit, said the three cases were only “the tip of the iceberg”.
Namibia has one of the highest rates of HIV prevalence, with about 13 percent of adults infected.
The fight-back has started over international and national groups pushing sterilization on African women. A project in western Kenya was blasted by human rights groups last year when it was discovered they were offering HIV-positive women cash for sterilizations. Project Prevention, a US-based NGO, was offering US $40 to be fitted with IUDs, which can prevent pregnancy for over a decade.
Agnes Odhiambo of New York-based Human Rights Watch blasted the NGO for “pushing women with HIV to take up long-term birth control irrespective of their reproductive needs”. James Kamau, coordinator of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement, called the project “wrong, immoral and unethical”.
A Project Prevention operative told local news sources, “Why should you give birth to a child who will remain an orphan, or who is likely to die before his or her fifth birthday because the mother had infected them…Prevent the suffering before it occurs.”
In November 2011, Citizen TV ran a story about an HIV-positive widow in Mbita who had received a grant to start a fish farming venture from the American NGO. The sole qualification to receive the money was her agreement to be fitted with an IUD.
The Minister for Medical Services, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, responded to the reports, saying, “We can’t say as a government we have been good at providing family planning needs of women or even men but we are putting measures in place. But it is important to stress that even HIV-positive women have the right to have children if and when they desire. HIV doesn’t take that right way, not at all”.
Planned Parenthood closes rural Iowa abortion facility because of low business
DUBUQUE, Iowa, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood closed an Iowa abortion facility on Friday, noting low business that left the facility unsustainable from a financial standpoint.
Although Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in January that it planned to close the Dubuque, Iowa, office, pro-life sidewalk counselors were overjoyed on Friday to read the sign in the window that read: “Our office is closed, effective April 28, 2016.”
The office did not perform surgical abortions but did provide medication abortions to the community of about 58,000.
“Rejoice with us for the lives of unborn children saved!” Iowa Right to Life said in a statement after the closure.
As with numerous other closures, Planned Parenthood, which styles itself a provider of “care no matter what,” emphasized it was closing its doors to preserve its bottom line.
“After assessing the shifting health care landscape, changing demographics, and the challenges of operating in areas with low patient volumes, we made the tough decision to close the Dubuque Health Center,” the group said in an announcement. “This change allows us to expand hours and see more patients in Cedar Rapids, where there is unmet demand due to lack of clinician hours.”
“While we regret making this change, we know it is a necessary step in order to continue our mission to provide, promote and protect reproductive and sexual health through health services, education and advocacy. Patients have been notified, and if they wish, they can receive a broader array of services at our health center in Cedar Rapids, where we have expanded hours to accommodate more patient,” Planned Parenthood said.
American Life League’s vice president, Jim Sedlak, remembers speaking to the county right to life group nine years ago.
“I told them at the time that they needed to protest outside Planned Parenthood at least once a week,” he said. “They told me they would do better than that. Over the last eight years, these dedicated pro-lifers were outside Planned Parenthood every hour it was open. And now...it’s closed for good.”
That aligns with advice that David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, once told young people who wanted to know how to end abortion.
Be loving and compassionate, he said.
“Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he added. “When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”
Iowa Right to Life credited just such tactics with closing an office in Red Oak that performed webcam abortions. “Planned Parenthood shut down in Red Oak in large part because of the constant, prayerful presence outside their clinic,” the group said.
Upon hearing of the latest abortion facility shuttering, the Dubuque County Right to Life said that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group that will move its base of operations. “We will probably put our efforts in Cedar Rapids and will continue to spread the pro-life message,” said Executive Director Marian Bourek.
Ted Cruz confronted by mom who supports aborting disabled babies…just like hers
MARION, Indiana, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz was met on the campaign trail by a mother who strongly opposed a state pro-life law that would have protected children with birth conditions – like her own.
Andrea DeBruler, a 41-year-old nurse, confronted the presidential hopeful in the city of Marion as Cruz campaigned with Gov. Mike Pence.
DeBruler first asked Cruz, then Pence, about House Bill 1337, which bans abortions performed due to the child's race, sex, or disability, such as Down syndome.
DeBruler held up a picture of her daughter, Jania, who was born with cerebral palsy. “This was a choice,” she said.
She asked Sen. Cruz if he supported the bill, which made Indiana the second state in the nation to ban abortion for Down syndrome, after North Dakota.
“I'm not Governor Pence,” he replied. “But I'll tell you this: I believe in protecting human life.”
Pence, who endorsed Cruz in today's make-or-break Indiana primary, listened to her objections.
“I'm not here as a Republican, I'm not here as a Democrat. I'm here as a woman, a woman with choices, choices that you guys should not make,” DeBruler said.
After hearing that she felt many families lacked sufficient resources to care for children, especially in an area like Marion, Gov. Pence offered to connect her with social services.
“God bless her,” he said, looking at Jania's picture, “and God bless you.”
Though it may be unusual to encounter a woman arguing for the right to abort her own child, the governor handled it calmly. Pence had specifically reflected on “precious moments” he spent with “families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome” when he signed the bill into law in March.
"We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies," Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said at the time.
DeBruler told the UK media outlet The Independent that H.B. 1337 “means you can no longer have an abortion based on deformity. I’m against this law, because I think it should be a woman’s choice” to abort for any reason.
Congressional Democrats made similar statements during hearings last month for Rep. Trent Franks' federal Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), with Congressman John Conyers saying the bill is “patently unconstitutional,” because a woman has the right to abort a child before viability for any reason.
Both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination expressed their displeasure with the law, which protects unborn children from racial or sexual discrimination, as well as discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait like mental capacity.
When Gov. Pence signed the law, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted:
The decision to have an abortion is for a woman to make, not the Governor of Indiana. https://t.co/1VOroXS2br— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 24, 2016
Hillary Clinton later said, “I commend the women of this state, young and old, for standing up against this governor and this legislature.”
DeBruler told The Independent, despite her comment about not being a Democrat or a Republican, she is in fact a Democrat and will vote for Hillary Clinton in today's primary.
The moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl in pending Notre Dame outrage
May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) -- In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.
Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a “big mistake.” The late Bishop John D’Arcy, then leader of the Indiana diocese in which the university is located, spoke of “the terrible breach which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.” For the first time in his 25 years of service to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Bishop D’Arcy declined to attend the Notre Dame commencement exercises; instead he addressed a protest rally organized by pro-life students, faculty, alumni, and staff.
These prelates and others explained their dismay by referring to the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” released in 2004 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that document, the bishops reflected on the need to maintain a consistent public witness in defense of human life, and therefore to distance themselves from public officials who support legal abortion. The statement set forth a clear policy that Catholic institutions should not give public honors to “pro-choice” politicians:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
By giving President Obama an honorary degree and offering him an opportunity to speak at graduation, Notre Dame clearly violated that policy. University officials could offer only garbled partial defenses, claiming that they were honoring Obama not because he supports unrestricted abortion, but because he is President of the United States.
This year the university cannot offer even that lame defense of the decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Biden. Unlike Obama, Biden is a Catholic, and by granting him this award the university is explicitly saying that the Vice President has “illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” In other words, Notre Dame is honoring Vice President Biden as a Catholic political leader despite his unwavering support for abortion and same-sex marriage.
Give credit to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the current leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, for raising a lonely voice of protest. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service,” Bishop Rhoades said. But if any other bishops have joined him in that rebuke to Notre Dame, I must have missed their public announcements.
Some observers, of liberal political sympathies, have argued that it is wrong to honor John Boehner, too, because the former Speaker disagreed with the US bishops’ stand on immigration. This is a tired old argument, conflating disagreement with the bishops on a prudential political decision with defiance of Church teaching on a fundamental moral principle. But it is noteworthy that Notre Dame officials saw fit to make a joint award, no doubt in a cynical effort to dodge political criticism by choosing one honoree from each side of the political spectrum.
“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” said Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in announcing the Laetare Award recipients. (Notice the pre-emptive suggestion that those who criticize the school’s choices may be engaged in “poisonous invective.”) He went on to make a tortured argument that although Notre Dame is honoring two politicians, it is not honoring them for what they have done in their political careers:
In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.
By now we all know the familiar dodges. The politician claims to oppose abortion personally, but to feel a delicate reticence about imposing his views on others. He says that we must be willing to compromise (even on life-and-death decisions). He insists that he is not “pro-abortion” but “pro-choice.”
That last bubble of rhetoric was unceremoniously burst by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, when he celebrated Mass at Georgetown after Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard had delivered a lecture there. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen,” he said, “behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away!”
Now Cardinal Wuerl himself has a chance to “blow that smoke away.” As things stand, he is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Notre Dame commencement, and to receive an honorary degree. He could pull out; he could absent himself from the ceremonies, to ensure that he does not become part of an event that pays homage to a “pro-choice” Catholic politician.
And there is a precedent. Back in 2009, the Harvard legal scholar (and former US ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon was chosen to receive the Laetare Award. But when she learned that President Obama would be speaking, she announced her decision to decline the award. Clearly annoyed that her presence might be used to quiet the critics of the honor for Obama, Ambassador Glendon wrote that she did not want to be used as a counterweight, nor did she see the Notre Dame commencement as an appropriate venue for a genteel debate about legal abortion:
A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.
Could Cardinal Wuerl do this year what Ambassador Glendon did in 2009? Even at this late date, his withdrawal would send a powerful message of support for the right to life: an unmistakable rebuke to politicians who hide behind the smokescreen that the cardinal himself identified. To be sure, if he did withdraw, the cardinal would be caught in an avalanche of public criticism; he would suffer for his public witness. But there is a reason why cardinals wear red.
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