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A Spanish judge from Barcelona, Elisabet Castello, dropped charges against 21 women accused of performing illegal abortions, El Periodico reported April 30.

The case concerns the clinic of Dr. Carlos Morin, mired in scandal for conducting late-term abortions. The judge said the patients acted with the conviction that they were not violating the law.

Abortion in Spain is legal in three instances: when the pregnancy poses a grave risk to the mother’s physical or mental health, is the result of a crime or when the fetus is severely deformed. Illegal abortions can be punished.

Several defendants claimed they received reassurances that "everything was legal." Of the 21 accused, none received legal guidance and few underwent psychological evaluations as required in the absence of crime or physical health justifications for an abortion.

Castello argued Spanish society has held a generalized belief that voluntary abortions are legal since the three exclusions to a blanket ban were introduced in 1985. She also noted that no sentences had been issued against women who had undergone the procedure in recent years.

Legal liability, she added, should fall on the clinician not on the patient.

Abortion also hit Uruguay’s headlines after police raided two clandestine abortion clinics April 30, El Espectador reported. Eleven individuals, including doctors, were arrested.

Investigations expanded to two more clinics on May 1.

Doctors contest that investigation methods violate confidentiality laws, as police used the clinics’ address books and patient databases to round up women suspected of abortion. Several women were admitted to hospitals for gynecological examinations as part of the investigation.

Women who undergo voluntary abortions in Uruguay can face three to nine months in jail.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decried female feticide and promised tougher laws, Australia’s The Age reported April 26. Currently doctors face a fine of $1,217 and a three-month jail sentence. The health minister wants to disbar doctors and impose a fine of up to $17,031 and imprisonment up to three years. An estimated 900,000 abortions a year–10 million lost girls in the past 20 years–are linked to a preference for male children.


  • Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Howard Berman introduced the International Violence Against Women Act to the House of Representatives on May 1. The bill–which was already introduced in the Senate last September–sets aside $200 million in foreign assistance for programs to stem violence against women and girls. Women’s organizations worldwide receive less than $30 million a year in aid, according to the United Nations. The bill also introduces mechanisms to hold humanitarian workers and military workers accountable for acts of sexual exploitation conducted abroad. Amnesty International led 200 activists to Congress on April 30 to lobby for its passage.

For more information:

International Violence Against Women Act

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The Vietnamese adoption system is under-policed and rife with corruption, fraud and baby-selling, according to a U.S. Embassy report obtained by the Associated Press. In protest, Vietnam will not renew its adoption agreement with the United States after it expires in September, AP reported April 28.

Adoption brokers prey on vulnerable women in poor villages and on mothers saddled with unaffordable medical bills, according to the U.S. Embassy report. In some cases, children are parted from their mothers by family members and given up for adoption without the mother’s consent.

With adoption restrictions tightening in China, the most popular country for adoptions overseas, many Americans, including actress Angelina Jolie, have turned to Vietnam as an alternative. The United States took in more than 828 adopted Vietnamese children in 2007, up by 400 percent from the previous year.

Bilateral agreements reached between Vietnam and the United States in 2006 allowed the resumption of adoptions barred in 2003 because of corruption. Currently, there are 42 U.S. adoption agencies licensed in Vietnam and U.S. parents pay up to $25,000 in adoption fees.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Food costs are skyrocketing in Peru hurting women who run canteens where Peruvians can buy meals for less than $1. An estimated 1,000 marching women banged pots and pans to protest food costs, the French L’Express reported May 1. The marchers demanded a 30 percent increase in subsidies. Rising food prices have driven down President Alan Garcia’s popularity rate to 26 percent, the lowest since he came to power in 2005. To respond to the crisis, Garcia reduced taxes on imported food products and sent the army to distribute free foodstuff to Lima’s poorest quarters.


  • Denmark’s far-right People’s Party launched a newspaper advertising campaign against judges who wear the Muslim headscarves in court May 1, Agence France Presse reported. The ads featured pictures of Muslim women wearing a spectrum of religious garb under the written warning "The country will be built on Sharia (Islamic) law." Muslim magistrates received permission to wear a headscarf in court in December 2007 but the media only recently revealed the decision, prompting a public outcry.


  • Fifty-eight women are joining a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Bloomberg, the financial data and news service company founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the AP reported May 2. That number may increase as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continues to interview the 478 women who have left the company on maternity leave since 2000. The allegations cluster around accusations that pregnant women were fired, demoted or otherwise discriminated against. Bloomberg, who resigned as chief executive officer in 2001 and retains a 68 percent stake in the company, is not a defendant. The next case hearing is scheduled for September.