Ipas Bolivia has launched a new initiative to increase women’s access to safe, legal abortion services in the public health system—an important step forward just two years after Bolivia’s highest court ruled to end a requirement for judicial authorization for women seeking legal abortions.
In partnership with Bolivia’s Ministry of Justice, Ipas will train law enforcement, judicial and policy professionals on the legal provisions for abortion and guidelines for handling cases in which women seek abortion care. Abortion is now legal in cases of rape, incest and risk to a woman’s health or life, but many professionals who could facilitate women’s access to this legal service still do not have training on the law and end up creating barriers for women.
“Personnel in the police, judicial and health sectors are not informed about the 2014 court ruling which guarantees women the right to an abortion,” explains Ipas Bolivia country leader Malena Morales.
New guidelines for care of sexual violence victims
A major contribution to training these sectors will be the newly released “Guidelines for the Care of Victims of Sexual Violence,” since many women seek legal abortions to terminate pregnancies resulting from sexual violence. Morales officially presented the new guidelines, created by Ipas in collaboration with the Vice-Ministry for Equal Opportunities, at an event celebrating International Women’s Day last month.
The guidelines explain the legal obligations of institutions involved with sexual violence cases—specifically rape, statutory rape and incest—to guarantee victims’ right to sexual and reproductive health care, including the right to choose emergency contraception or safe, legal abortion. They support Bolivia’s national plan for prevention of adolescent pregnancy, which calls for a systematic response to all sexual violence.
“Women who have experienced sexual violence and wish to obtain a legal abortion must file a police report, and this means they’re vulnerable to police staff as well as health staff misinforming them about their rights,” Morales says.
The guidelines also support the nation’s plan to prevent and eradicate gender-based violence and will be used to train psychologists, lawyers and social workers within the health system. Ipas also plans to train staff within the Ministry of Health, the legal and justice systems, the national police force, and the national program for victim assistance, as well as indigenous authorities and legal defenders of children and adolescents. Ipas has already been training police on this topic for the last two years.
To ensure the public knows that safe abortion is now easier to access under certain circumstances, Ipas Bolivia has also produced national radio spots to raise awareness that there is now legal support for women who wish to exercise their right to a safe abortion.
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