Proposed Rwandan law would legalize abortion, make conscientious objection illegal

 Law Governing Reproductive Health

Sean Murphy*

After its approval by the Standing Committee on Social Affairs,  Rwandan Member of Parliament Ignatienne Nyirarukundo has brought a proposed Rwandan reproductive health law before the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies for consideration.  The bill is reported to have been initiated five years ago, and is apparently an improved version of a bill that was criticized for violating human rights, contradicting the Rwandan Constitution, and for being so badly translated that its provisions were sometimes given different meanings in different languages.  That bill was rejected by the Rwandan senate.

Nonetheless, the English text of the present bill3 continues to suffer from defects like incoherence and inconsistency that may be the product of poor translation.  In addition, it  include provisions that are likely to be controversial for various reasons. [Full text]


UN Human Rights Council equates lack of access to abortion with torture

Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Juan E. Méndez

The present report focuses on certain forms of abuses in health-care settings that
may cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment. It identifies the policies that promote these practices  and existing protection gaps.

By illustrating some of these abusive practices in health-care settings, the report sheds light on often undetected forms of abusive practices that occur under the auspices of health-care policies, and emphasizes how certain treatments run afoul of the prohibition on torture and ill-treatment. It identifies the scope of State‟s obligations to regulate, control and supervise health-care practices with a view to preventing mistreatment under any pretext.

The Special Rapporteur examines a number of the abusive practices commonly reported in health-care settings and describes how the torture and ill-treatment framework applies in this context. [Report]

Freedom of conscience in Philippines impacted by Reproductive Health Act

The Philippines Department of Health has signed the  Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10354, otherwise known as the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012” (RPRH Act of 2012).   The regulations have not yet been posted on the Department’s website. [DOH News Release]

The regulations will have an immediate impact on the exercise of freedom of conscience by health care workers.  According to news reports, those who are privately employed must complete an affidavit setting out what they object to and why, and must post a prominent notice of what “reproductive health services” they will not provide.  Government health care workers will apparently be forced to use some kind of civil service process to obtain approval for the exercise of freedom of conscience.

DOH Assistant Secretary Dr. Madeleine Valera stated that the law would be applied “liberally,” by which she appears to have meant that freedom of conscience will be restricted as much as possible so that purported “human rights” would be protected. [Sun Star]

Pakistan passes Reproductive Healthcare and Rights Act

The National Assembly of Pakistan has unanimously passed a private member bill sponsored by  Dr. Attiya Inayatullah the Reproductive Health care and Rights Bill, 2013.   One of the concerns underlying passage of the bill was the high rate of mortality associated with childbirth.  [Daily Mail]

UN Human Rights Commission demands suppression of freedom of conscience

The UN Human Rights Commison has issued a document that purports to base the restriction or suppression of freedom of conscience among health care workers on human rights claims.  Technical guidance on the application of a human rights based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal morbidity and mortality.  Section 30 of the document calls for changing laws and policies that allow conscientious objection “to hinder women’s access to a full range of services.”  Section 61 states that laws, polices and regulations that allow “unregulated conscientious objection” should be changed, and “newly established obligations of providers and rights of individual users should be disseminated.” The resolution was endorsed by New Zealand, Burkina Faso, and Colombia and enumerates access to abortion among “sexual and reproductive health rights.” 20 of the 47 council members opposed the text.  The UN General Assembly will consider adopting it later in October. [CFAM]