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Macedonians Renew Protests Against Abortion Curbs

June 16, 2013

Macedonian rights groups are resuming protests in front of parliament on Monday as  lawmakers are expected to vote on a new government law to restrict abortion.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 10.06.2013

 

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Rights groups vowed to rally again on Monday against the draft law which they say will curb women’s basic rights and could be a step towards a complete ban on abortions.

Ninety-one local and international rights groups, including the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Association for Health Education, have signed a joint letter to Macedonian legislators protesting about the proposed legislation.

Two weeks ago, the right-of-centre government of Nikola Gruevski surprised many by submitting the draft to parliament using a shortened procedure.

The move prompted protests at the parliament building with demonstrators carrying banners with slogans like “My Body, My Decision” and “I Am Not a Child Killer”.

Last week, health minister Nikola Todorov promised that he would make some concessions on the draft.

One of the concessions that he offered was to remove a provision that would put himself in charge of the formation of a commission that would decide on women’s requests for abortion.

But he said he was not planning to withdraw the draft, which he described as “liberal”.

“There will always be opposing opinions over which right is greater, the right of the woman to decide on her own or the right to life of the child in her womb,” Todorov said over the weekend.

The current law, dating from 1976, leaves key decisions on terminations to women and doctors.
But under the proposed changes, women will now have to file requests for abortions and will have to confirm that they attended counselling, informed the “spouse” of their intention to abort and met a gynaecologist.

The law would further prohibit women from having a second abortion within a year of the first one.

“These restrictive measures bring us back to the times when other people decided about women’s rights,” said Liljana Poplovska, head of the small DOM party, the only governing coalition party that opposes the bill.

Ermira Mehmeti Devaja, a legislator from the junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, was the only other woman from the ruling majority who publicly said that she would not support the bill.

Some see the move as a step towards a ban on terminations. In 2009, the government launched a media campaign against abortion, which was backed by the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

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