REPROHEALTHLAW Updates – April 2017

April 25, 2017

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[Croatia, abortion] Constitutional Court reaffirmed that women’s access to abortion is protected under their constitutional rights to liberty, personality, and privacy.  Rješenje Ustavnog Suda Republike Hrvatske, broj: U-I-60/1991 i dr. od 21.veljace 2017.
Decision online in Croatian     Amicus brief in English by CRR


“Women’s Human Rights” including theory and activism, for special issue of Canadian Woman Studies/Les cahiers de la femme, guest edited by: Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, Alda Facio, Angela Lytle, Angela Miles, and Patricia Nyaundi.  Submit by April 30, 2017    Detailed call for papers.   Submission guide.

Anti-Discrimination Law Review, newly launched, peer reviewed journal.  Submit papers 6,000-10,000 words. Information for authors.

Call for abstracts  “1997-2017: 20 years after the Oviedo Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine: What are the achieved gains and its potential? international conference at European University (December 8-9, Nicosia, Cyprus)  Submit 300 word abstract by July 1, 2017.  Flyer with Call for abstracts.    Conference details.

Conference:  “Difficult Conversations: Thinking and talking About Women, Genders and Sexualities Inside and Outside the Academy”  The Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities.  Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y., U.S.A.,  June 1-4, 2017


Summer “Program of Advanced Studies on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law,”
Academy of Human Rights, Washington College of Law, American University, Washington D.C.  Classes start May 30, 2017.  Apply by May 1, 2017.  Details.  Choose from 20 Courses, 9 in English and 11 in Spanish.  Course list.

Summer school on Health Law and Ethics (1 or 2 weeks) The Erasmus Observatory on Health Law / Institute of Health Policy & Management (Erasmus University Rotterdam)  Course details and registration.


[abortion] “Taking Abortion Rights Seriously: Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt” by Kate Greasley,  The Modern Law Review 80.2 (March 2017): 325-338.  Open access article.

[abortion law – Australia] Children by Choice website highlights Australian abortion law and practice –  Links to recent legal reform bills

[abortion law] Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies, ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman and Bernard M. Dickens (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), now also in paperback, 20% discount code PH70.  Available from U Penn Press.

[abortion law – Spanish]    El aborto en el derecho transnacional: casos y controversias,  ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman y Bernard M. Dickens (Mexico: FCE/CIDE, 2016)   De venta: Fondo de Cultura Económica Libreria CIDE.

[abortion policy] “Towards a non-ethics-based consensual public policy on abortion,” by David Alvargonzález, (philosophy professor in Spain).  The International Journal of Health Planning and Management 32.1 (Jan-Mar 2017): e39-46. Article or Abstract.

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


[abortion, Brazil] Petition to Supreme Court of Brazil March 7, 2017, seeks decriminalization of abortion on request up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. The petition was filed by the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), with support from Anis – Institute of Bioethics.  Press release.

[abortion, Canada – coverage]  Expert panel endorses public coverage for abortion pill (mifepristone + misoprostol), under brand name “Mifegymiso”.  Newspaper reportExpert recommendations and reasoning

[abortion – Kenya]  Recent cases of women dying while procuring abortion, clinic proprietor arrested. Safe Abortion update.

[abortion, Uruguay]  Judge denies termination of 10-week pregnancy, siding with ex-boyfriend.  Woman miscarried due to stress, mistreatment and public exposure; she plans to sue judge.  News media.    Update from Safe Abortion campaign.

[conscience, Canada]  Doctors, pharmacists push back on medical abortion rules    Colleges of physicians and pharmacists suggest off-label workaround for Health Canada’s restrictions on dispensing the abortion drug Mifegymiso   CMAJ News

[conscience, Canada]  Christian Medical and Dental Society v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO). objecting to rules requiring Ontario doctors to refer patients seeking abortions, etc.  Hearings scheduled June 13-15, 2017   Newspaper report.

[conscience, Ghana] Provider obstruction: a major threat to critical maternal health services in Northern Ghana, Global Doctors for Choice-Ghana study results.

[conscience, Italy]:  UN Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations CCPR/C/ITA/CO/6 criticizes Italy for lack of non-objecting doctors.  HRC report in English.
Parliamentary study found that 70% object.  Hospital in Rome advertises for non-objecting doctors. CRUX Catholic newsletter

[conscience, Sweden]: Swedish court upholds ruling against midwife (Grimmark) claiming conscientious objection.  Midwife is funded by wealthy US prochoice alliance  Article by Safe Abortion Women’s Right


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

Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

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   (Próximamente em FGV Direito S.P.)

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


Kenyan Court: duty to protect rights of intersex persons

March 10, 2016

Many thanks to Godfrey Kangaude, LL.M. (UFS), LL.M. (UCLA), Executive Director of the Malawi Law Society and Co-Director of Nyale Institute for Sexual and Reproductive Health Governance, for writing a new African case summary for the forthcoming publication, Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts:

Baby “A” (suing through her mother, E.A.) and The Cradle the Children Foundation v Attorney General, Kenyatta National Hospital, and the Registrar of Births and Deaths [2014] eKLR, Petition No. 266 of 2013 (High Court of Kenya at Nairobi, (Constitutional and Human Rights Division)). Decision onlineFull Case Summary.


  • Baby A is intersexual based on the fact that a laboratory report/form indicated a question mark on the sex of the child, showing that there is ambiguity about the sex of the child. Though the Acknowledgment of Birth Document indicated the child as “male”, it is usually the case that society would categorise an intersex child as male or female.
  • There is no evidence that the rights of Baby A or other intersex persons were violated in any way because of Sections 2(a) and 7 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act (RBDA).
  • It is an anomaly that the current legal framework does not recognise intersex persons. It is the duty of the government to protect the rights of intersex babies and persons by providing a legal framework to address issues relating to them, including registration under the RBDA, medical examination and tests, and corrective surgeries.
  • There is need to collect data on the intersex population to enable proper design of public policy. There is however, no agreement on whose duty it is to collect this data, and the Court would not make a determination on this issue.

The full case summary of the Baby A case  by Godfrey Kangaude, online here, contrasts this decision with Kenya’s first intersex case,  RM v The Hon. Attorney General & 4 Others, eKLR Petition no 705 of 2007 (High Court of Kenya at Nairobi, Nairobi Law Courts). R.M. Decision online.   Case summary of R.M

Legal Grounds: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in African Commonwealth Courts   (2000 to 2008) Volumes I and II can be downloaded here.  Our update will be published early in 2017.  Decisions already identified for inclusion  are online here.  New case summaries are added every month.   If you can suggest other cases, please do!   How You Can Help.

Catholic Constitutionalism on Sex, Women, and the Beginning of Life

November 5, 2015


Julieta Lemaitre,Catholic Constitutionalism on Sex, Women, and the Beginning of Life,” Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, and Bernard M. Dickens (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) pp 239-257, notes pp. 430-434. A Spanish edition was published in August, 2016.  Ahora disponible en español.

The 1994 U.N. International Conference on Population and Development at Cairo set off a conservative Catholic backlash against feminist ideas on sexuality and reproduction. Catholic lawyers, inspired by Vatican instructions, vigorously argued in constitutional settings across the Americas against the liberalization of abortion laws, same-sex marriage, and embryonic cell research. While some explicitly referenced scripture and religious authorities in their advocacy, many abandoned such references in favor of legal claims based on reason alone. This latter strategy marked a profound shift for the conservative Catholic opposition to sexual and reproductive rights.

In this eleventh chapter of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (U Penn Press, 2014) , Julieta Lemaitre explores this emergence of Catholic constitutionalism in abortion law; that is, the recent advancement of Catholic theological reasoning through the secular discourse of human rights.  Tracing the theological roots of these arguments, and engaging with them on their own merits, she elaborates core Catholic constitutional arguments about the legal regulation of abortion and explores the useful effects of this engagement in exposing the moral order implicit in liberal convictions and its shortcomings, and in building bridges with Catholic concerns for social justice.

Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies was published in August 2014 by the University of Pennsylvania Press’s Studies in Human Rights Series.   Table of Contents and other information online. A Spanish edition was published in August, 2016.  Ahora disponible en español.

Women’s Rights in the Abortion Decision of the Slovak Constitutional Court

July 30, 2015

Adriana Lamačková   “Women’s Rights in the Abortion Decision of the Slovak Constitutional Court, Chapter 3 in Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies, ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, and Bernard M. Dickens (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) pp. 56-76, 397n-402n.  A Spanish edition was published in August 2016:  Ahora disponible en español.

In 2007, the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic held that abortion on a woman’s request, permitted by the law until the twelfth week of pregnancy, is consistent with the constitutional obligation to protect unborn human life. Since the end of state socialism, constitutional courts across Central Europe, including Germany, Hungary, and Poland, had asked and answered this question. The Slovak Court, however, is the only court in the region to validate abortion on request by reference to state obligations both to protect unborn human life and to respect the rights of women to reproductive self-determination. While validating certain procedural requirements before a woman can obtain abortion on request as consistent with the state’s obligation to protect unborn human life, the Slovak Court gave woman’s rights to reproductive self-determination full and equal standing in the constitutional order, using balancing as an analytical framework, according to which multiple constitutional rights and values are vindicated, none completely overruling any other, and favoring compromised rather than absolute regulation. The chapter’s final overview of subsequent legislative proposals related to abortion decision-making illustrates how the Court’s decision has transformed discourse about abortion in the country.

This third chapter of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective illustrates how constitutional values can be used to reform abortion law in Europe and beyond. The Slovak Court, by giving full recognition and effect to the rights of women, reflects the fundamental shift in European constitutional abortion law explored in previous chapters, “The Constitutionalization of Abortion” by Reva Siegel and “Abortion Law in Portugal: New Trends in European Constitutionalism,” by Ruth Rubio Marin.

A Spanish edition of this book was published in August 2016:  Ahora disponible en español.

Abortion in Portugal: New Trends in European Constitutionalism

July 30, 2015

The first five chapters of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies explore “Constitutional Values and Regulatory Regimes” by illustrating how European constitutional courts came to reject the traditional assumption that women’s rights conflict with those of the unborn.   Reva Siegel’s chapter “The Constitutionalization of Abortion” provides an overview of this trend, followed by two country-specific chapters.  The first of these is abstracted below.

“Abortion in Portugal: New Trends in European Constitutionalism”, by Ruth Rubio-Marín,  Chapter 2 in Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies, ed. Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, and Bernard M. Dickens (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014) pp. 36-55, notes 393-397. A Spanish edition was published in August 2016:  Ahora disponible en español.

In this  second chapter of Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective, Prof. Ruth Rubio-Marín explores the constitutionalization of abortion by analyzing the rich history of constitutional jurisprudence in Portugal, culminating in the 2010 decision of the Portuguese Constitutional Court validating a “periodic regime” of access to abortion within the early weeks of pregnancy, combined with the introduction of mandatory non-dissuasive abortion counseling to protect intrauterine life.  The Court recognized this new regime as protective of unborn human life but also respectful of women’s dignity and autonomy as constitutional values worthy of protection. Overall, Rubio-Marín identifies a shifting vision, underlying this evolution, of the pregnant woman, now viewed as a responsible actor who makes her own legitimate decisions informed by available means and support, suggesting an alternative, positive course of action for the state.

Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies was published in August 2014.   Table of Contents and other information online.  A Spanish edition was published in August 2016:  Ahora disponible en español.