Moldovan Woman in Prison for Having an Abortion: European Court of Human Rights to Review

Jodi Jacobson

A young pregnant woman in Moldova is jailed for undergoing an abortion, denied adequate health care, and subject to discrimination and humiliation by male guards in prison. Human rights groups have filed a complaint on her behalf.

The Center for Reproductive Rights reports the following today regarding the case of a young pregnant woman in Moldova on whose behalf CRR and the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights have filed a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights:

In May 2006, Z., a young pregnant woman from one of Moldova’s poorest regions, had an abortion at home. Suffering from severe blood loss, she rushed to a local hospital, only to be reported to the police by doctors and then detained.
Even though there is no criminal penalty under Moldovan law for women who have illegal abortions, Z. was charged with intentional and premeditated murder. In December 2006, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
She will be 45 years old by the time she is released from jail.

Women in Moldova who become pregnant outside of marriage as well as those who have abortions are generally stigmatized by society. Unsurprisingly, Z. encountered rampant sex discrimination throughout her detention, prosecution, and trial.
While awaiting trial in prison and experiencing continuous bleeding, she was humiliated by male prison guards and denied appropriate post-abortion care. The prosecution and the courts, meanwhile, repeatedly made biased remarks against her based on gender stereotypes and anti-abortion attitudes.

On February 9, 2009, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights filed a complaint on behalf of Z. against Moldova before the European Court of Human Rights.
The complaint charges that Moldova violated a number of rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. These include the rights to liberty, security, and a fair trial, as well as the right to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment, not to be convicted for a crime and punished with no basis in law, and not to be discriminated against based on sex.

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In addition to the release of Z., the case seeks to ensure that Moldovan law enforcement adheres to the country’s abortion and criminal laws and does not treat women who undergo illegal abortions as criminals. Discrimination by law enforcement should be condemned and laws should be put in place to prevent and punish such acts.
The case also aims to make post-abortion care an essential component of healthcare and ensure it is provided in all settings, including prisons.

Will we see the same tactics used by anti-choice zealots in North Dakota where a "personhood" amendment has just passed?

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