The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned its long-standing 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion and leaving millions of American women with no legal access to the procedure.
Roe v. Wade, which had been functional for the last 50 years, made abortion legal nationally for pregnant American women in their first trimester. The Supreme Court’s new decision has removed this federal protection on abortion rights, giving states the sole right to allow or restrict abortions.
Already, more than 12 states have passed trigger laws banning abortions. Another 20 states have plans to introduce new restrictions.
While the question of abortion’s legality is framed as a binary political issue to be fought between “pro-life” and “pro-choice” activists, abortion is ultimately a medical procedure, making it a decision that should be made by a pregnant woman and her medical care team informed by the health of a mother and child, current medical knowledge and the choice of the pregnant woman. This decision should strictly be maintained as an individual’s own right, rather than being used as a political football to gain votes.
While many conservatives are rejoicing and celebrating the ruling — which marks the culmination of a decades-long effort by the so-called Religious Right to overturn Roe — women’s rights advocates across the country have been left distraught over the loss of abortion rights. Many protesters have taken to the streets, holding up signs and rallying against the ruling in cities from San Antonio to Boston.
With these new restrictions in place, many women might have to travel across state borders to get an access to abortion. They may also resort to the option of ordering abortion drugs online, even if it is considered illegal. Others may not be able to access abortions at all, even when medically necessary for a life-saving procedure. Indeed, abortion rights advocates fear the ruling may lead to an increase in maternal mortality, especially among low-income women.
In December 2021, the Supreme Court first heard the case that led to the justices tossing out Roe. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerned the legality of a pre-viability ban on elective abortions in Mississippi.
The 1973 ruling was challenged by Mississippi’s Republican Attorney General, Lynn Fitch, who sought to uphold her state’s extreme ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy—even in cases of rape or incest.
According to Ms. Fitch, the 1973 ruling has “made women believe they had to pick: family or career, not both.” She framed the effort to overturn Roe as a fight of ‘women’s empowerment’ which would give women the “option in life to really achieve your dreams, your goals, and you can have those beautiful children as well.”
The court ruled to uphold Mississippi’s ban with a vote of 6-3 by the conservative-majority court. It was ultimately a political ruling: Among the nine judges, six were appointed by Republican presidents.
Three of the judges disagreed with the decision, asserting millions of American women have “lost a fundamental constitutional protection” today.
Democratic members of Congress have decried the decision made by the Republican-controlled Supreme Court as “cruel.” President Biden, too, has called on Congress to “restore the protections of Roe” through legislation. He argued that the court’s ruling takes the country toward an “extreme and dangerous path” and has urged the people to act with their vote, stressing that “this is not over.”
“This fall, Roe is on the ballot, personal freedoms are on the ballot,” Biden said. “The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they’re all on a ballot.”
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
Abortion care-A Fundamental Right Under the Kenyan Constitution
Abortion care – A fundamental right under the Kenyan Constitution.
By making abortion legal for victims of sexual abuse and women with pregnancy complications, Kenya is making health care accessible for women. AnalsytNews spoke to Dr. Anne-Beatrice Kihara about abortion laws.
Over a decade ago, Kenya set out on a course to provide constitutional reproductive rights to women. By replacing the colonial constitution with a new democratic text, it secured the rights of privacy and abortion for women in the constitutional framework. Although the country is still a long way from translating the articles into a legal language of implication, they are helping to save the lives of women.
The long struggle for the right to abortion in Kenya yielded results when a minor, PAK and her health care provider, Muhammad Saleem, were released of charges by the High Court in the Kenyan city of Malindi after Saleem was detained by the officials along with PAK under the accusation of performing an illegal abortion for the said minor.
The ruling in the PAK and Saleem Muhammad case established abortion as a legal right for women experiencing pregnancy complications and has been hailed as a victory for women’s rights to privacy in the country.
According to Article 26(4) of the constitution of Kenya, Abortion is permitted if in the opinion of a medical expert, “there is a need for emergency treatment”.
Similarly, if the pregnancy complications are putting the “life or health of the mother in danger,” the mother can undergo a procedure with the assistance of a certified care provider.
Kenya also provides post-abortion treatment for women under Article 43 (2).
With 41% of Kenyan women experiencing sexual violence, in 2019 the high court in the FIDA- Kenya case gave the victims of assault the Right to Abortion.
As elections are fast approaching in Kenya, the issue of abortion is once again making headlines. The recent Roe v Wade ruling, and organised online campaigns against the Reproductive Health Care Bill and Surrogacy Bill by the right-wing are shaping up to become a growing threat to women’s right to abortion in the country.
According to the President of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (FIGO) Dr Anne-Beatrice Kihara (obgyn), although the laws in Kenya do not provide “abortion on demand,” they do take into consideration the “life and health of the mother”. She told The Analyst in an interview that “The foetal viability in Kenya is after 20 weeks of conception.” Thus, safe abortion services can be provided in the 2nd trimester at gestation when the fetus is not viable,” she added.
“Although the laws in Kenya do not provide ‘abortion on demand,’ they do take into consideration the “life and health of the mother.”
The lack of safe abortion options could lead mothers to opt for unsafe choices. The consequences could be dire, Dr Kihara explains. There are short-term effects on a mother’s health such as “hemorrhage, sepsis, fistula formation, etc.” In the long-term they also develop “chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and mental illness.”
A mother who has had an unsafe abortion could develop “chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility or mental illness.”
As Dr. Kihara sees it, the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision could create issues for health care providers who are ethically and morally obligated to provide healthcare to patients in need. They might face “stigma, discrimination, and criminalization for supporting the provision of information and services.” Resultantly there will also be more referrals of patients to other US states for abortion services. This will result in failure to access emergency treatment, possibly more pregnancy related complications that will increase morbidity/mortality, she adds.
She argued that the issue should not only be dealt with at a medical level but at a social level with special attention paid to the “education, counselling of the girls with health promotion and prevention strategies; access to family planning and contraception programs”.
Dr Kihara further said there is need to “reduce the politicizing” of sexual and reproductive health services.
Instead we need to focus on what could be the outcome of investing in comprehensive, quality and safe health services on individuals, the health system and society at large. She suggested there is also need for “engagement of boys/ men taking responsibility for fatherhood and as agents for change”.
She further urged legislators to ponder over the “serious ramifications related to access, affordability, acceptability, quality and safety of services rendered” after the overturning of RoeVsWade.
While the US navigates it way through the confusions and controversies involve in the matter, abortion policies in Kenya can help them find a common ground that can ensure the safety and health of the mother and child.
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
French Hijab study “not trustworthy” say Stanford researchers
AnalystNews reached out to researchers from Stanford University to ask them about a controversial French hijab study
Researchers from Stanford University have cast doubt on claims by a French hijab study which suggested that hijab bans within the classroom have been beneficial for Muslim girls and led to an improvement in grades.
The study said that the 1994 circular which required schools to ban all “ostentatious” religious symbols “coincided with a significant improvement in the educational attainment of female students of Muslim origin”.
Vasiliki Fouka and Aala Abdelgadir from Stanford University, who conducted their own study in 2019, said that the February 2022 paper by Ėric Maurin and Nicolás Navarrete had a number of significant drawbacks, rendering their conclusions invalid. They highlighted three major drawbacks of the study.
Problems with French Hijab study
Firstly, the French report compared the effects of the ban on a group of prepubescent girls against older girls, who the authors claimed would be unaffected by the circular because older girls would already have made their decision to wear or not to wear the veil.
The Stanford researchers said: “It is not appropriate to consider this group of older girls as unaffected by the circular because they were also in school during its implementation and would have been affected.”
What the Stanford study found was that it was actually girls who were already in secondary school that experienced the most discrimination during the implementation of the Hijab ban in 2004.
“Comparing girls pubescent versus girls post-pubescent in 1994 could yield a finding of higher educational attainment for younger girls simply because the comparison group of older girls did worse in school because of the circular’s effects on them,” they said.
The second major drawback that Fouka and Abdelgadir explained was that the reason for a supposed reduction in the attainment gap between Muslim and non-Muslim students cannot necessarily be related to the 1994 circular. They said: “High school graduation rates seem to have been increasing steadily for Muslim girls born 1975 and later, with no apparent change for girls that Maurin and Navarette define as affected by the circular”.
Instead, graduation rates among non-Muslim girls seemed to stagnate for those in the younger cohort of the French Hijab study, which could have contributed to the positive effects that their study found.
The third significant drawback of Maurin and Navarrete’s study was that they didn’t make clear their reasons for concluding Muslim girls fared better after the ban.
“The circular’s veiling prohibition is claimed to allow these girls to engage in school, thus reducing dropout rates and raising their educational attainment. But there is nothing in the analyses of the paper that provides direct evidence for this,” said Fouka and Abdelgadir.
The authors of the French Hijab study themselves acknowledged that many girls wore the Hijab out of their own free choice, which affirmed their “cultural identity as a woman free to veil and a part of French society,” the Stanford researchers added.
For these reasons they said: “We don’t think the conclusions of the study are trustworthy.”
In the study conducted by them, they were able to provide evidence on the specific causes of why the 2004 ban reduced the educational attainment for Muslim girls. They showed that girls in school at the time experienced discrimination specifically in the context of educational settings, but not other public spaces.
Further interviews with Muslim women uncovered how there was a “climate of increased scrutiny and targeting” during the early phases of the law’s implementation.
The Stanford study highlighted the need to investigate and take into account negative consequences of such bans which target vulnerable groups, like teenage girls, before enforcing such policies.
Fouka and Abdelgadir found a “clear and immediate reduction” in the educational attainment of Muslim secondary school girls at the time of the ban. This “robust” effect persisted even after various forms of analysis across three different data sources.
Discrimination due to Hijab
While the argument in favour of the headscarf ban may suggest that it shields Muslim girls from discrimination based on their religious identity, which is more apparent with their choice of clothing, this is all speculative and there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, the researchers added.
Fouka and Abdelgadir say: “There is no research we are aware of that provides systematic evidence either on the reasons why Muslim girls veil at school, nor that veiling bans reduce discrimination against them (indeed, our data shows that perceived discrimination increased rather than the other way around)”.
Other methodological limitations of the French Hijab study, such as how the researchers decided to determine religion of students, and the assumption that all girls wearing the veil were forced to do so, also waive confidence in the conclusion of the findings.
Stanford’s Fouka and Abdelgadir concluded by saying: “It is worth thinking whether, as a society, we want to place the onus of reducing targeting on the victims – by having them blend in and be less conspicuous – or on the perpetrators. If the goal is to reduce discrimination and improve the standing of marginalised groups, we should perhaps consider alternatives that do not make the targeting of those marginalised groups even more intense”.
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
“The Hijab Ban in France made it difficult but I still got good grades”
French writer Mahrukh Arif Tayyab reveals how she battled through the Hijab ban in France to complete her education.
Mahrukh Arif Tayyab is a French-born writer and freelancer who has been through the French school system and struggled with the Hijab Ban during her studies. We spoke to her about her experiences and views as a hijab-wearing Muslim student in France.
Hijab ban in France
“Hijab over there is banned in schools and in high schools. So, I started wearing a hijab at around 17 or 18 after I had completed high school. After A-levels, I was selected for Classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles – a prep school that prepares you within two years for a national exam for one of the biggest schools in France,” she said.
“I’d have to comply with the rules and take off my hijab at the entrance of that school and I’d wear it again at the end when I’d go out. This is quite an intensive course. But my experience over there was that I didn’t feel like my grades were going down just because of the academic pressure. I think it was a whole thing going on where I felt that I wasn’t completely integrated for what I was wearing on my head. For what I choose to wear on my head outside the premises of that high school.”
“You are there as a law-abiding citizen and you are being criticised for it.”
She recalled how, during her time at the preparatory course, she was called out to be a hypocrite “because I was completely comfortable taking it off at the entrance of the high school and somehow, I needed to wear it back when I’d go out of the school.” She expressed how it was ironic because as someone complying with the laws “you are there as a law-abiding citizen and you are being criticised for it”.
But the change in the understanding of those around her changed “slowly and steadily” as she explained to them what the hijab meant to her.
The main reason, according to her for the hesitation of people in accepting the hijab is the negative stereotypes around Muslim women and their identity. The majority of people in France hold the stereotypical representation of “what a Muslim woman is supposed to be and what the hijab means for a Muslim woman,” she says.
“Most of them think that it’s something that has been forced upon us and it’s something that a male figure would force upon a Muslim woman. It was very difficult to maintain a religious identity and to be at peace with your religious identity.”
Reflecting on how these stereotypical assumptions were an added pressure on her she said “there were two sorts of pressure. It was academic pressure and obviously, the social pressure that was quite intense.”
But that did not stop her from academically performing well. After she completed the prep school she went for her master’s in Social Sciences at a university where she was free to dress as she chose to.
“I started to see a radical change in my grades and in my self-confidence… I completed my master’s with the most excellent marks,” she says.
“I felt at ease with myself, and I felt that there was no pressure whatsoever. No social pressure to act in a certain way and not being comfortable with your own self.”
Ms Tayyab recalls her time at university as the “best two years” because “I was able to carry myself the way I actually feel, freely. I was able to be myself.”
Ms Tayyab explained how it is difficult to be “visibly Muslim” in France.
“A hijab-wearing Muslim woman in France has to think twice before going for a job interview,” she tells us. This makes the interviews more stressful because they have to constantly think of the reaction towards hijab by the person who’s going to interview her or the company where she’s going to be working in. “She’ll be told straight away that you won’t be able to do this this this job if you want to keep that on your head,” Ms Tayyab says.
“A woman who has the hijab on today will not have many doors open to her.”
“Unfortunately when we look at the reality, the ground reality… a woman who has the hijab on today will not have many doors open to her… there was a French Muslim woman who was the representative of the national student union of France… who was criticised for her veil. She was merely defending student rights. And all the media people around could see was what she was wearing on her head.”
She says the debates in France around Muslim women who are wearing the hijab have become sort of an obsession. “Muslim women in France when they wear the hijab and are socially active, are told to take off their hijab. They are trying to make them socially invisible.”
She pointed out that the lack of platforms to amplify Muslim women’s voices in France is a contributing factor to the hypocrisy on the academic, professional, and social levels. “We tell them that we never get to hear a Muslim woman wearing a hijab that she chose to wear the hijab out of her own free will. But there’s no platform given to hijab-wearing women who are well-spoken, eloquent, and who are successful in their life and studies to present their cases – they are always put on the outskirts of the society”
“Muslim girls in the UK are more ambitious and confident.”
After completing her Masters in France, Ms Tayyab moved to the UK and says her life has “completely changed regarding the fact that I can wear my hijab here without any discrimination”. She observed that Muslim girls in the UK are more ambitious and confident.
Comparing her experience of the two countries as a Hijab-wearing woman she said “ I always wanted to have a career in journalism in France and I thought that it was completely impossible to wear a hijab and to be a journalist in France. Over here there are a lot of young Muslim girls who are very ambitious and very passionate about what they want to do. And they get to do it.”
“The Hijab ban has such a bad effect on your mind that it normalises the discrimination in your mind you think.”
“It’s funny how growing up in France puts certain mechanisms in your head. I remember when I moved here earlier on about two years ago, I was preparing for a job interview for a journalist position and I remember asking my husband twice if is it going to be okay if I wear my hijab there? Or should I remove it before going to the interview? These are all the sorts of mechanisms that you start to develop when you are a hijab-wearing Muslim woman living in France. It has such a bad effect on your mind that it normalises the discrimination in your mind you think.”
She is hopeful if she decides to start her studies again or start working in the UK she will be more free and at ease.
“I’ll feel more comfortable and at ease working there with my hijab.”
UN debate human rights in Afghanistan, concern for women especially
Human rights in Afghanistan and more specifically those of women are being discussed at the UN after Taliban takeover of the country.
Since the recapture and overthrow of the Afghan government on August 15th 2021, the Taliban have slowly reverted to strict rulings for women in Afghanistan, raising issues of human rights in Afghanistan. Despite the several reassurances and claims that women’s rights would be protected under the new Taliban regime, the UN (Human Rights Council) believe it is now time to find solutions after many violations on women’s human rights have occurred.
Various points were discussed during the debate but the general consensus amongst all the countries who participated, was that women in Afghanistan are facing human rights violations on a systemic level. The Taliban have triggered the removal of women from many occupations as well as dismantling previous structures to help girls receive adequate education.
Many speakers expressed their concerns that the Taliban are slowly removing women from all public spheres of life, which would set up entirely male-dominated social hierarchies. These hierarchies are created from young ages, as girls are not allowed to participate in further education . If this is able to continue for the foreseeable future, although it may look grim for Afghanistan now, it may get worse. The lack of education for all girls may prove to be a bad decision for nature of the Taliban’s rule within the next decade. It was also mentioned that without the equality and participation of women in Afghanistan, the social and economic development of the country can only go so far.
The UN were also able to debate what they may be able to provide Afghanistan after the removal of US troops from the nation. One solution suggested was more general rather than specific for women but emphasised the importance of continuing humanitarian aid as the country is also facing a poverty crisis. Some in the council blamed this poverty on the previous US occupations in Afghanistan, whilst also requesting that the US restore the damages and assets to the country.
It was discussed that if these resources are provided by the UN in order to aid the Afghan people, it would still not be sufficient enough to allow the country to prosper because the involvement of women is fundamental both socially and economically.
Although it may seem like little, council members believed that this debate was a spark in the quest of restoring the human rights of women in Afghanistan. Fawzia Koofi (First Woman Vice President of the Afghan Parliament) stated that the situation for women had previously become “unique and dire” and there are fears amongst society that this may occur again and without debates like this, then our fears may become true.
Child Rape Victim Denied Abortion
A ten-year-old girl who was subjected to rape and discovered that she was pregnant was denied an abortion in her home state of Ohio. In keeping with Ohio’s trigger law – which came into effect as the Supreme struck down the landmark 50-year old-Roe v Wade decision – the child was not viable for an abortion. This was because she was three days over the six weeks after which the procedure is lawfully banned due to the detection of foetal cardiac activity in the womb. The child rape victim was forced to travel to another state, Indiana, to have the procedure carried out. This was possible because lawmakers of the state of Indian have yet to decide on the legality of abortion, something which they are expected to do later this month.
Medical professionals have shed doubt on the six-week-policy time frame for legal abortions.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the legal framework which first federalised the right of abortion, and hand back the power of its legality to individual states, has sparked outrage and division across the country. At least ten states which have now criminalised abortion do not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Medical professionals, as well as women’s rights groups, religious communities, and prominent politicians have spoken out against the court’s decision, while others have backed the move. Access to abortion care is now determined by whether a state is a Republican or Democratic majority.
The U.S Vice President Kamala Harris called out the decision as “outrageous” and that it showed that “the statement has been made that the government has a right to come in your home and tell you as a woman.. what you should do with your body.”
However, in contrast to Harris, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem refused to directly answer reporters when quizzed on the issue of the child rape victim in Ohio, and instead claimed that prosecution of the man responsible for the rape of the ten-year-old should be the topic of concern. Eventually the Republican governor conceded and said she was not in favour of changing the current trigger law enforced by Roe v Wade’s demise to allow exceptions for such cases as rape, saying “I don’t believe a tragic situation should be perpetuated by another tragedy” and that “there’s more that we’ve got to do to make sure that we really are living a life that says every life is precious.”
How are three countries in the Global South dealing with increasing femicide rates?
A woman or girl is killed by someone in her family every 11 minutes. The Global South have recently been experiencing a spike in femicide rates, this can be due to several reasons: better reporting standards, the COVID-19 pandemic, or even more awareness about the issue on social media. Pakistan, Egypt, and Mexico have recently experienced a number of femicides.
The Pakistani Government came severely under pressure for the treatment of women throughout 2021 and that continues in 2022. Early this year, Aneesa and Arooj Abbas who lived in Spain were allegedly murdered by their husbands, uncle, and brother after they were forced to marry their husbands last year in Pakistan. The investigating officer said that “both the sisters were killed in the name of ‘honour’.” But this is not new to Pakistan. In 2016, Qandeel Baloch one of Pakistan’s first social media stars was murdered by her brother, Waseem Azeem, as he believed she brought dishonour to family because she would post photos and videos that broke strict social taboos within Pakistan.
At the time of Baloch’s case, a perpetrator’s sentence could be pardoned by their family. Even though Azeem was not pardoned by his family, this law was risky as it opened the gap for a murderer to walk free when most honour killings are agreed upon by the entire family. That same year, in October an anti-honour killing bill passed which guarantees a mandatory 25-year sentence for the perpetrator and removes the right of families to pardon the perpetrator. However, if the perpetrator is sentenced to death, then the family can pardon his sentence, but they will still need to serve a mandatory 25-year sentence.
Despite good progress within the country, much still needs to be done to protect women from violence and it starts with attitudes towards these issues. During the ‘rape epidemic’ last year, the Prime Minister at the time, Imran Khan was accused of being a ‘rape apologist’ because he said “If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact on the man unless they are robots. It’s common sense.”
Like Pakistan, Egypt is no stranger to the poor treatment of women and the recent murder of 21-year-old university student, Naira Ashraf in Egypt proves that. Ashraf was murdered in broad daylight in front of her university by a classmate, Mohamed Adel because she had rejected his marriage proposal several times. Adel received a death sentence on 28th June 2022.
However, the situation would be very different if they were married. According to Egypt’s penal code Article 237 says “whoever surprises his wife in the act of adultery and kills her on the spot together with her adulterer-partner shall be punishment with detention instead of the penalties prescribed in Articles 234 and 236” meaning, husbands who kill their wives are sentenced, but their punishment is less severe than if the two were not married. Whereas, if a wife kills her husband, she will be given full sentence. This could have meant that Adel could have gotten a less severe punishment if he was married to Ashraf.
Therefore, severe improvement needs to be achieved in Egypt as it is an injustice for married men to face a less severe punishment if they murder their wife, this leads to women being exploited and not possess the ability to fight for justice. Human rights lawyer, Nehad Abo Komsan said: “As long as we do not take the complaints of young women seriously, and as long as we say that those fighting for women’s rights are emboldening girls and causing trouble, this will be the result.”
Approximately 10 women are killed every day in Mexico and one of them on 9th April was Debanhi Escobar, an 18-year-old who was sexually abused and murdered. Her body was found later in a motel in Nuevo León. An initial government autopsy concluded that Escobar’s death was an accident, that she fell into a water tank and died from a single blow to the head. However, an independent autopsy concluded she was sexually abused and murdered. Mario Escobar, Debanhi Escobar’s father, requested the findings of the independent autopsy due to his distrust within the Mexican Government’s findings. No one has been sentenced until this day.
The Mexican Government have been accused of not handling this case well when the Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the discovery of Escobar’s body in a motel “shouldn’t worry” Mexicans as it “happens everywhere”.
There is a lack of trust by the public as they believe femicide cases will not be taken seriously by the Mexican authorities. Mario Esobar stated “My daughter is dead and I don’t know what to do…I’m angry at myself for trusting the authorities of Nuevo León. I made a mistake.”
The current Mexican Federal Penal Code (CPF) makes femicide illegal (Article 325) by sentencing the perpetrator forty to sixty years in prison. However, as Mexico is split into 32 states, states can individually regulate and classify crimes as they deem appropriate.
Furthermore, the President of Mexico has been criticised for not doing enough to protect women from violence before they could potentially face murder as he cut the national budget for the federal women’s institute in 2020 by 75%. Alongside this, the President proposed to stop funding all together towards women’s shelters. He has also been criticised for calling most of the domestic violence phone calls – the Mexican hotline receives – as “fake” however, he has not presented any evidence to support his claims.
The laws of these three countries inadequately protect women from violence. To decrease femicide rates you need to have adequate laws to protect women from violence before they face murder. Without sufficient laws, women are not properly protected. However, achieving protective laws can take time to attain, the first step is to change attitudes of those who are in power.
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