REPROHEALTHLAW Updates – Nov. 2016

November 24, 2016

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Gender Justice Uncovered Awards – internationally elected, from cases abstracted by Women’s Link Worldwide:   Best and Worst Judgments of the year.

India: High Court on its own Motion v.  The State of Maharashtra, Suo Motu Public Interest Litigation No. 1 of 2016,  Civil Appellate Jurisdiction, High Court of Judicature at Bombay,  India, September 19, 2016. [Prison inmate granted abortion on compassionate grounds.]  Judgment online.

Spain: Tribunal Constitucional, Sentencia S.T.C. 145/2015, 25 de junio de 2015, 2015182 BOE 66654.  [Seville pharmacy had been fined €3,000 in 2008 for refusing to sell emergency contraceptive, but Spanish constitutional court overturns decision on appeal.]  Spanish judgment now online, including dissenting opinions.  Published decisionEnglish newspaper report. Summary by Women’s Link Worldwide

Tanzania: decision against child marriage:  Rebeca Z. Gyumi v The Attorney General, Miscellaneous Civil Cause No. 5 of 2016, Date of Judgment: 8/7/2016,  [Tanzanian age of marriage laws are found discriminatory and unconstitutional]   Decision online Comment by Girls Not


“Disability and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights”  Reproductive Health Matters 25.49, (June 2017). Submit paper by  (extended) deadline Dec. 10, 2016.   Detailed call for papers.

Disability: “The notion of maternal immunity in tort for pre-natal harms causing permanent disability for the born alive child”  Human Rights Controversies,  Special Issue of The International Journal of Human Rights.  Submit paper by February 1, 2017.  Detailed call for papers

“Equality rights, human rights or social justice…”  Journal of Law and Equality (peer-reviewed, student-run) is currently accepting submissions for its Spring 2017 publication.  It publishes research articles, case comments, notes, and book reviews by a diverse group of commentators including professors, practitioners, and students.  Submit papers to  JLE  at gmail. com


[abortion] “Mandatory Waiting Periods and Biased Counseling Requirements in Central and Eastern Europe: Restricting Access to Abortion, Undermining Human Rights, and Reinforcing Harmful Gender Stereotypes.” Center for Reproductive Rights.  Fact Sheet online.

[abortion law, Chile]   Debates y reflexiones en torno a la despenalización del aborto en Chile, Lidia Casas Becerra y Delfina Lawson  (LOM, 2016).  Libro en línea, 325 paginasIndice en Espanol.

[abortion law, Latin America, constitutions]  Paola Bergallo and Agustina Ramón Michel, “Constitutional Developments in Latin American Abortion Law,”  International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 135 (2016) 228–231.   PDF online here

[abortion, rape and child marriage  in Sri Lanka]  Submission    to    the    Committee    against    Torture    re  the Sri    Lanka’s Fifth    State    Party    Report, October    2016 by the OMCT (World Organization Against Torture) and Global Justice Center, focuses on how Sri Lankan law violates the Convention Against Torture by banning abortion in most circumstances, and by authorizing rape in certain instances and child marriage.
Press Release     Shadow Report

[conscientious objection, Canada] “Let Thy Conscience Be Thy Guide (But Not My Guide!): Physicians and the Duty to Refer” (October 12, 2016) Daphne Gilbert, McGill Journal of Law and Health 2016 10(2).  Abstract and Article.

[fetal abnormality testing] “Ethical and Legal Aspects of Noninvasive Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis,” by Bernard M. Dickens,  International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 124.2 (2014): 181-184. Abstract and Article.

[personhood and assisted reproduction, Argentina]   “The Lingua Franca of Reproductive Rights: The American Convention on Human Rights and the Emergence of Human Legal Personhood in the New Civil and Commerce Code of Argentina,” by Martin Hevia and Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, 23 U. Miami Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 687 -740. Article online.

US-focused news, resources, and legal developments are available on Repro Rights Prof Blog.  View or subscribe.


Links to other employers in the field of Reproductive and Sexual Health Law are online here

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Noninvasive Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis

November 24, 2016

Congratulations to Prof. Bernard M. Dickens whose article, abstracted below, is now universally available.

Bernard M. Dickens, “Ethical and Legal Aspects of Noninvasive Prenatal Genetic Diagnosis,”   International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 124.2 (2014): 181-184. online here.

Abstract:  The new technology that will allow genetic testing of a fetus within the first trimester of pregnancy by isolating cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) in the mother’s blood raises a range of ethical and legal issues. Considered noninvasive, this test is safe and reliable, and may avoid alternative genetic testing by amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, which risks causing spontaneous abortion. Ethical and legal issues of cffDNA testing will become more acute if testing expands to fetal whole-genome sequencing. Critical issues include the state of the science or diagnostic art; the appropriateness of offering the test; the implications of denying the test when it is available and appropriate; disclosure and counseling following test results; and management of patients’ choices on acquiring test results. A challenge will be providing patients with appropriate counseling based on up-to-date genetic knowledge, and accommodating informed patients’ legal choices.  Full text is online here.

Related Reading:
Rebecca J. Cook, “Stigmatized meanings of criminal abortion law,” chapter 16 of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), 347-369, analyzes the decision of R.R. v. Poland (European Court of Human Rights),  which held that a woman in Poland should not have been denied access to genetic prenatal examinations which would have enabled her to decide whether or not to seek a legal abortion in Poland. Abstract of this chapter.   Book: Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective.   Libro: El aborto on el derecho transnacionalRR v Poland decision.

Bernard M. Dickens, “Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and ‘Saviour Siblings’International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Vol. 88, pp. 91-96, 2005  is online here.

76+ other articles on Ethical and Legal Issues in Reproductive Health are on our Program webpage here.

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“Obstetric violence”: maternal mistreatment in healthcare settings

November 24, 2016

Congratulations to Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, LL.M., a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, whose article, partly based on his Master of Laws thesis,* was recently published in Reproductive Health Matters’ special section on abuse and mistreatment in healthcare settings.  The author can be reached at charlie.herrera {at} mail, utoronto, ca.

Obstetric violence: a new framework for identifying challenges to maternal healthcare in Argentina, by Carlos Herrera Vacaflor, Reproductive Health Matters 24.47(May 2016):65-73.  Full text and abstracts in English, French and Spanish.

Abstract:  Argentina has recognized women’s right to not be subjected to obstetric violence, the violence exercised by health personnel on the body and reproductive processes of pregnant women, as expressed through dehumanizing treatment, medicalization abuse, and the conversion of natural processes of reproduction into pathological ones.  Argentina’s legislative decision to frame this abuse and mistreatment of women under the rubric of gender-based violence permits the identification of failures in both the healthcare system and women’s participation in society. This article examines how applying the Violence Against Women framework to address issues of abuse and mistreatment of women during maternal health care provides a beneficial approach for analyzing such embedded structural problems from public health, human rights, and ethics perspectives. The framework of Violence Against Women seeks to transform existing harmful cultural practices, not only through the protection of women’s reproductive autonomy, but also through the empowerment of women’s participation in society.

Further Reading:
Obstetric Violence in Argentina: a Study on the Legal Effects of Medical Guidelines and Statutory Obligations for Improving the Quality of Maternal Health,  by Carlos Alejandro Herrera Vacaflor, LL.M. Thesis, Graduate Department of the Faculty of Law University of Toronto, 2015 abstracted here.

International Human Rights and the Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth by Rajat Khosla, Christina Zampas, Joshua P. Vogel,  Meghan A. Bohren, Mindy Roseman, and Joanna N. Erdman,  Health and Human Rights Journal  Article in press online.

Other articles from this issue of Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 24, Issue 47 (May 2016)

Two South African articles about this emerging issue are now online:

  • Eliminating abusive’care’, : A criminal law response to obstetric violence in South Africa by Camilla Pickles. South African Crime Quarterly 54(2015): 5-16.  abstract and full text
  • Obstetric violence in South Africa,”  by Rachelle Joy Chadwick,South African Medical Journal 106.5 (2016): 423-24. [also reviews concept and term]   2-page text.

Autonomy and pregnancy: A comparative analysis of compelled obstetric intervention, by Samantha Halliday (Routledge 2016) draws on law from the U.K., U.S. and Germany, in “circumstances in which courts have declared medical treatment lawful in the face of the pregnant woman’s refusal of consent.”  Autonomy & Pregnancy book.

Relevant Kenyan and South African decisions are available online, with case summaries prepared for Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts, forthcoming in 2017.

  • Millicent Awuor Omuya alias Maimuna Awuor & Another v The Attorney General & 4 Others [2015], Petition No. 562 of 2012, (High Court of Kenya at Nairobi (Constitutional and Human Rights Division)). [Detaining women for failing to pay for maternal health services violated their constitutional rights]  Case summary.    Decision online.
  • Ntsele v MEC for Health, Gauteng Provincial Government [2012] ZAGPJHC 208 (South Gauteng High Court, South Africa)  [Medical negligence during labour]  Case summaryDecision online.

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Libro sobre la despenalización del aborto en Chile

November 24, 2016

Nuevo libro en línea !

Lidia Casas Becerra y Delfina Lawson, (Compiladoras)


Prólogo,  Agustín Squella

Debate sobre la legalización de la interrupción del embarazo en Chile: las condiciones mínimas necesarias de garantizar y preservar,  Lidia Casas Becerra, Lieta Vivaldi Macho y Juan José Álvarez Rubio

Estándares sobre derechos sexuales y reproductivos en el derecho internacional de los derechos humanos,   Ximena Gauché Marchetti

La pena inútil,   Verónica Undurraga Valdés

La regulación del aborto: entre el control y la autonomía,   Yanira Zúñiga Añazco

Objeción de conciencia y aborto, Rodolfo Figueroa García-Huidobro

La objeción de conciencia como derecho constitucional,  Ángela Vivanco Martínez

Convicciones éticas institucionales y objeción de conciencia colectiva en el sector sanitario público y privado,  Manuel A. Nuñez Poblete

La legitimidad de las indicaciones del aborto y su necesario carácter de causas de justificación,   Héctor Hernández Basualto

Aborto cuando el embarazo es resultado de una violación:  un injusto penal eventualmente no exigible,  María Magdalena Ossandón Widow

Interpretando derechos: la otra legalización del aborto en América Latina,  Paola Bergallo

Libro en línea, 325 paginas

PARA UNIRSE A ESTE BLOG: ingrese su dirección de correo electrónico en la esquina superior derecha de esta página web, luego revise su correo electrónico para confirmar la suscripción. Compilado por el Coordinador del Programa de Derecho Internacional de la Salud Reproductiva y Sexual, reprohealth* law@ utoronto * ca.   Para publicaciones y recursos del Programa, visite nuestro sitio web, en línea aquí.

Constitutional Developments in Latin American Abortion Law

November 24, 2016

Congratulations to two Argentine scholars,  Paola Bergallo and Agustina Ramón Michel, who recently co-authored a useful article in the Legal and Ethical Issues section of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Paola Bergallo and Agustina Ramón Michel, “Constitutional Developments in Latin American Abortion Law,”  International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 135 (2016) 228–231.   PDF online here.

Abstract: For most of the 20th century, restrictive abortion laws were in place in continental Latin America. In recent years, reforms have caused a liberalizing shift, supported by constitutional decisions of the countries’ high courts. The present article offers an overview of the turn toward more liberal rules and the resolution of abortion disputes by reference to national constitutions. For such purpose, the main legal changes of abortion laws in the last decade are first surveyed. Landmark decisions of the high courts of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico are then analyzed. It is shown that courts have accepted the need to balance interests and competing rights to ground less restrictive laws. In doing so, they have articulated limits to protection of fetal interests, and basic ideas of women’s dignity, autonomy, and equality. The process of constitutionalization has only just begun. Constitutional judgments are not the last word, but they are important contributions in reinforcing the legality of abortion.   Full text online through SSRN

Further reading

“Abortion,” by Paola Bergallo & Agustina Ramón Michel, Chapter 3 in  The Latin American casebook: Courts, constitutions and rights, ed. Juan F. Gonzalez-Bertomeu and Roberto Gargarella (Routledge, 2016).  Latin American casebook .

“The Constititutionalization of Abortion,” by Reva Siegel, in Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) 13-35.  English bookLibro en español.

La constitucionalización del aborto y sus encuadres en las altas cortes de América Latina,por Paola Bergallo & Agustina Ramón Michel, “constitucionalización,”

“Interpretando derechos: La otra legalización del aborto en América Latina.” por Paola Bergallo, Capitulo 7 en Debates y Reflexiones en torno a la despenalización del aborto en Chile, Lidia Casas y Delfina Lawson. Ediciones Lon, Santiago de Chile, 2016. “Interpretando”,    Debates y Reflexiones – PDF Book .

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El aborto en el derecho transnacional: casos y controversias

October 27, 2016


por Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman

y Bernard M. Dickens, (editores)
(México, FCE/CIDE 2016).

El debate jurídico y judicial sobre el aborto ha tenido, a lo largo del siglo XX y principios del XXI, importantes revoluciones en su abordaje teórico y práctico, que son expresión de estrategias de sectores sociales, religiosos y políticos que en ocasiones resultan contrapuestas.

Éste es un completo balance dinámico sobre las nuevas transiciones actuales y posibles y los desarrollos jurídicos más significativos a nivel transnacional en el tema del aborto, y da cuenta del nuevo desarrollo conceptual que concibe la idea de que no sólo la sanción penal, sino también la amenaza de la sanción penal, ponen en riesgo derechos fundamentales de las mujeres.

“…. Libro de gran actualidad y de avanzada … los autores tratan el tema del aborto con maestría desde las más variadas vertientes como pobreza, marginación, exclusión social, salud pública, penalización y derechos humanos….es y seguirá siendo lectura obligada para operadores jurídicos, sociólogos, economistas, políticos pero sobre todo para cualquier persona interesada en el tema.”

–Olga Sánchez Cordero,  Ministra en retiro de la
Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (México)

Introducción y Prólogo a la edición en español,  y  Índice General en línea

Tabla de Casos/Jurisprudencia en línea con enlaces a muchas de las decisiones judiciales

De venta en línea y en librerías del Fondo de Cultura Económica.

Oportunidad: Si desea escribir una reseña para alguna revista académica latinoamericana,  por favor escriba a  reprohealth . law @ utoronto . ca para solicitar una copia del libro.


Prólogo a la edición en espanol, por Víctor Abramovitch

Introducción, por Rebecca J. Cook,  Joanna N. Erdman, y Bernard M. Dickens


La constitucionalización del aborto, por Reva B. Siegel

El aborto en Portugal. Nuevas tendencias en el constitucionalismo europeo, por Ruth Rubio Marín

Los derechos de las mujeres en las sentencias sobre aborto del Tribunal  Constitucional de Eslovaquia, por Adriana Lamačková

El principio de proporcionalidad en el control de constitucionalidad de las normas sobre aborto, por Verónica Undurraga
(Também em português do Brasil)

Un enfoque funcionalista al derecho comparado del aborto, por Rachel Rebouché


El giro procesal: el aborto en el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos, por Joanna N. Erdman

La lucha contra las normas informales que regulaban el aborto en la Argentina, por Paola Bergallo

El papel de la transparencia en la reforma de leyes y prácticas del aborto en África, por Charles G. Ngwena


El marco de referencia médico y el aborto medicamentoso temprano en el Reino Unido.  ¿Cómo puede un Estado ejercer control sobre la ingesta de una píldora? por Sally Sheldon

El derecho a la conciencia, por Bernard M. Dickens

El sexo, las mujeres, y el inicio de la vida humana en el constitucionalismo católico, por Julieta Lemaitre Ripoll

El aborto en el debate público brasileño. Estrategias jurídicas del embarazo anencefálico, por Luís Roberto Barroso

Nepal, hacia una igualdad transformativa. El fallo Lakshmi Dhikta, por Melissa Upreti


El tratamiento de las narrativas del sufrimiento inocente en el litigio transnacional del aborto, por Lisa M. Kelly

Narrativas sobre la personalidad jurídica del no nacido en la regulación del aborto, por Alejandro Madrazo

Significados estigmatizados del derecho penal sobre el aborto, por Rebecca J. Cook

Tabla de Casos/Jurisprudencia (en línea)

Tabla de legislación, tratados y otros instrumentos internacionales relevantes


Forced sterilization case against Bolivia: expert testimony by Christina Zampas

June 15, 2016


I.V. v Bolivia is the first case the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has heard on informed consent to medical treatment and the first case alleging forced sterilization. It is only the second reproductive rights case considered by this Court.

This case concerned the involuntary sterilization in 2000 of an immigrant woman from Peru in a public hospital in Bolivia during a caesarean section.  The doctors decided that a future pregnancy would be dangerous for I.V. and performed a tubal ligation, claiming that this was necessary in order to prevent a future pregnancy. They also noted that they had obtained I.V.’s consent while on the operating table. When I.V. learned that she had been sterilized she felt devastated, and has been seeking justice ever since.

In 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights referred this case to the Inter-American Court for a decision, after having concluded that Bolivia was responsible for the violation of Articles 5.1, 8.1, 11.2, 13, 17, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and Article 7 of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará). The Commission’s report is online here.

Christina Zampas, a Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Fellow at the University of Toronto’s International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, presented oral expert testimony before the Court during its hearing on 2 May 2016 in San Jose, Costa Rica. Christina Zampas has studied forced sterilization issues since 2002, when at the Center for Reproductive Rights, she worked with the Center for Civil and Human Rights (Poradňa), Slovakia, to document the forced sterilization of Roma women in Slovakia, and co-authored Body and Soul: forced sterilization and other assaults on Roma reproductive freedom in Slovakia, online here.   Since then, she has engaged in advocacy and litigation before UN and regional human rights and intergovernmental bodies, calling for accountability on the issue. She has also co-chaired Open Society Foundation’s Working Group on Sterilization and has been instrumental in the development of health and medical association standards on the topic, including the World Health Organization (WHO) UN Inter Agency statement on forced and coerced sterilization (2014) online here, and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics’  guidelines on female sterilization (2011), pages 122-126.

In her recent testimony before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Zampas focused on international and regional human rights standards in relation to informed consent to medical care generally, and to sterilization specifically.  In her presentation, she explained United Nations and European Court of Human Rights standards and case law on the subject, including on the numerous cases against Slovakia concerning forced sterilization of Roma women, as well as international health and ethical standards.  She emphasized that international and regional health and human rights standards are clear: sterilization for prevention of future pregnancy cannot be justified on grounds of medical emergency, which would permit departure from the general principle of informed consent.  Even if a future pregnancy might endanger a person’s life or health, alternative contraceptive methods can be used to ensure that the individual does not become pregnant immediately. The individual must be given the time and information needed to make an informed choice about sterilization. The provision of information, counseling and sterilization under the stressful conditions of childbirth are not only a violation of the right to information but also violate the right to privacy, physical integrity and human dignity and are a gross disregard for an individual’s autonomy, rising to the level of inhuman and degrading treatment.

Zampas’s testimony also urged the Court to address the gender stereotypes and the intersectionality of gender with other characteristics, such as race and ethnicity, disability, HIV and migrant status, often underlying the practice. These stereotypes deem women incapable of making rational decisions about their reproductive capacity, stripping them of decision-making regarding their own bodies and lives. They assume that men and people in positions of authority—such as doctors who perform medical procedures, male family members, or society at large—are better positioned to make decisions for women. Human rights bodies have recognized the power imbalances in doctor-patient relationships and how this can lead to serious abuses, including in the use of the medical necessity doctrine. She noted that such notions, prevalent in society, can lead to violations of the right to be free from discrimination.

Zampas’s testimony set forth potential individual and structural (general) remedies, including compensation and an apology, law and policy reform that is in line with human rights standards, training and education of all health care staff, adoption of ethical guidelines to address informed consent and gender stereotyping, and monitoring of public and private health centers to ensure accountability, and guarantee an effective remedy when violations do occur.

Amicus briefs in this case were filed by Women’s Link Worldwide and the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School, Ciara O’Connell and Diana Guarinzo-Peralata at University of Sussex, and the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at CUNY Law School and Women Enabled International. Expert written testimony was provided by Luisa Cabal, in her capacity as a lawyer and expert on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and Ana G. Cepin, MD, Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The decision is expected within the next year.

Relevant publications:

Christina Zampas is co-author with Adriana Lamačková, a former LLM student in the program, of “Forced and Coerced Sterilization of Women in Europe,” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics (2011), Forced and Coerced Sterilization.

Sterilization: list of program resources, including articles, theses, and further reading .   Sterilization resources.

Ethical and Legal Issues in Reproductive and Sexual Health, written or edited by Rebecca Cook and Bernard Dickens, published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics – Ethical/Legal articles  online.