Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Deterioration of women's rights under the de facto regime: an illustration

The de facto regime has had four months to rule Honduras without effective opposition. And in that time, they have dispensed numerous contracts for projects and done a number of other budgetary moves that the Tegucigalpa Accord accepts as done deals by agreeing that the budget passed by the regime will continue to be honored.

The de facto regime has effectively dismantled citizen participation in the creation of history, done lasting damage to cultural institutions, and made a mockery of culture, substituting support for fashion shows for book mobiles and the digitization of historical documents.

The regime has violated the rights of indigenous people, Garifuna people, and women.

Adrienne Pine has reproduced many statements by Honduran feminists documenting the negative impacts of the coup and the policies of the regime (here and here, for example).

And now, the de facto regime has turned back the clock for reproductive rights, taking away from women one of the safest, least intrusive methods of birth control in existence, the morning-after pill. According to press reports in May of this year, the morning-after pill has been used openly in Honduras for ten years, and overall, for thirty years. But earlier this year, it became the focus of a legislative campaign by then congressmember, now a member of the de facto regime, Marta Lorena Alvarado.

A correspondent working with Feministas en Resistencia writes that the de facto regime
has banned the sale and use of Emergency Contraception. Previous to the coup, Marta Lorena (de facto Vice Chancellor of Foreign Relations) was a congresswoman from the Liberal Party... also a card carrying member of Opus Dei. She pushed through an initiative to band the sale of [Emergency Contraception] in Congress after soliciting three opinions. The World Health Organization and the College of Ob/Gyns both said that it was not an abortafacient, but the Colegio de Medicos had a commission hand chosen by the President of the organization who wrote that it was [an abortafacient]. President Zelaya vetoed the decree and it was sent back to congress which did nothing before June 28th to overturn the veto.
Debate at the time of the original consideration of the bill in spring of 2009, covered in El Heraldo, quoted Marta Lorena Alvarado inveighing against international agendas for women's reproductive rights, yet made clear that she uses an argument of the US anti-reproductive rights movement that equates any prevention of implantation of a fertilized egg with abortion.

When President Zelaya vetoed the bill, Marta Lorena Alvarado was quoted at length in Hondudiario denouncing the rejection of the bill she had fostered, which she claimed would protect thousands of children and prevent "promiscuity".

Our correspondent notes that the decree establishing the new law, Acuerdo 2744 of the de facto Minister of Health, claims to be intended to "protect the health of Honduran women"-- and who is the regime's Minister of Health? the ex-president of the Colegio de Medicos:
in other words, he bases the new law on the position paper of the commission that he hand picked over a year ago.
In addition to citing his own report, that diverged from two independent opinions, the Ministerial decree itself, published October 24 in the Honduran Gaceta and effective immediately, claims that recommending the use of the morning-after pill provokes
unlimited abuse of the commercialization of the said pharmaceutical, putting in grave risk the health of the Honduran population, especially that of the woman of child-bearing age.
This seems to be a somewhat muted echo of Marta Lorena Alvarado's claim that this form of contraception, especially important for victims of sexual assault, is really a kind of party drug for promiscuous young women who she images are increasing in numbers in Honduras.

So, how about some news from fact-based reality:

Pregnancy is dangerous in Honduras, women in Honduras are on average giving birth to 50% more children than they want, and the survival of mothers and newborn children, while improving, is still poorer than ideal.

The World Health Organization reports that in 2007, women in Hondurans who suffered from poverty were almost three times as likely to experience still birth or death of newborns. Rates of still birth or neonatal death actually rose between 1981 and 2005, to 27 deaths per 1000 pregnancies.

In 2005, the average number of children Honduran women might expect to deliver in their lives was three each. Of those, 1/3 were the outcomes of undesired pregnancies. This pattern existed despite reported rates of use of "modern contraceptive methods" by 51% (rural) to 62% (urban) of women.

The Population Resource Center reports that world-wide studies show that
One in four maternal deaths could be prevented by family planning. Access to family planning has a great impact on maternal mortality.
US AID, reporting on efforts to improve women's access to contraception and family planning in Honduras in 2006, wrote approvingly of Honduran government actions, including passage of laws that guaranteed "every woman the right to exercise her reproductive rights and freely decide the number and birth spacing of her children", conforming with international treaties signed by Honduras.

These are the kinds of gains of specific rights that have been eroded by the de facto regime. This damage also needs to be reversed before Honduras can recover from the nightmare caused by the coup.

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