Ms. Global: Polish Reproductive Rights Activist Convicted; Dance as Protest In Iran; Spain Announces Gender-Parity Law

The U.S. ranks as the 19th most dangerous country for women, 11th in maternal mortality, 30th in closing the gender pay gap, 75th in women’s political representation, and painfully lacks paid family leave and equal access to health care. But Ms. has always understood: Feminist movements around the world hold answers to some of the U.S.’s most intractable problems. Ms. Global is taking note of feminists worldwide.


+ Polish court convicts reproductive rights activist for helping a woman get abortion pills.

In a Warsaw court on Tuesday, Mar. 14, Justyna Wydrzyńska, a member of Abortion Dream Team (ADT), was convicted for helping a pregnant woman access abortion pills. Wydrzyńska was sentenced to eight months of community service. 

Since 1993, Poland has heavily restricted abortion care. But further restrictions were introduced in January 2021, which limits legal abortions to only cases of rape or incest, or if the pregnant person’s life is considered to be at risk. This new law also criminalizes abortion-providers. Today, it is almost impossible for women to legally access safe abortion care in Poland; abortion is almost entirely illegal in the country. 

According to Amnesty International, last week’s ruling “eliminated one of the only remaining legal grounds for abortion under Poland’s highly restrictive law and its entry into force means that there is now effectively a near-total ban on abortion in Poland.” 

ADT activists like Wydrzyńska work within the constraints of this new Polish law. According to The Guardian, ADT helped upwards of 9,000 people access medical abortion in 2022. Usually, ADT activists offer people advice on how to legally order medication abortion tablets from other countries. Although ADT is not supposed to handle any of these packages themselves, Wydrzyńska made an exception when Ania, a pregnant woman facing domestic violence, needed help ordering an abortion pill after her husband prevented her from traveling to Germany to access an abortion. 

“I knew that Ania was in an extremely desperate situation, and I had a set of pills for my own personal use. I do not feel guilty. Hearing the details of Ania’s situation in this courtroom has only strengthened my conviction that I made the right choice,” said Wydrzyńska in court. 

Before Ania could take the oral medication, Ania’s husband found the package with the abortion tablets and notified the police who confiscated the medicine. A few days later, Ania had a miscarriage. 

Wydrzyńska’s case is from February 2020, and she says she plans to appeal against her sentence for attempting to illegally aid an abortion. 

“I don’t feel guilty at all,” said Wydrzyńska outside the court building. “I don’t accept this verdict. I will continue picking up the phone calls.”

Keina Yoshida, a senior legal adviser at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement: 

“Her prosecution sets a dangerous precedent for the targeting of human rights defenders in Poland who are working to advance reproductive rights and challenge Poland’s de facto ban on abortion… Criminalizing abortion and prosecuting those providing assistance and support to people in need of health care is wrong. It contravenes international human rights treaties and flies in the face of modern medical practice and World Health Organization guidelines.” 


+ Public dance emerges as a form of protest among Iranian teen girls.

Five young women have gone viral after posting a video dancing to the song “Calm Down” by Selena Gomez and Nigerian singer Rema in public without wearing mandatory headscarves. Iranian laws prohibit dancing — even using the word ‘dance’ is banned.

The regime called this dance a “synchronized movement” and subsequently launched a search for the young girls. The video was originally posted to Instagram by the group’s trainer, who was the first to be identified by security forces. Tehran’s Ekbatan neighborhood, where the video was filmed, has been a center of protests since the death of Masha Amini in September 2022. 

Supporters around the world have posted videos of themselves dancing to the same song in solidarity. Narges Mohammadi, a prominent human rights defender, claims women’s singing and dancing is a form of feminine presence in the streets that should not be oppressed.

+ Iran makes arrests in connection with suspected poisonings of hundreds of schoolgirls across the country.

Iranian officials have arrested more than 100 people considered to be connected with the suspected poisoning of hundreds of schoolgirls across the country. 

In recent months, Iran has seen an increase in poisoning attacks against female students. And many activists believe that these attacks are fueled by religious groups that oppose girls’ education. 

Iran’s Interior Ministry (IRNA) reported that “initial inquiries show that a number of these people, out of mischief or adventurism and with the aim of shutting down classrooms and influenced by the created psychological atmosphere, have taken measures such as harmless and smelly substances.” The ministry also said that suspects were “individuals who have had hostile motives, tried to create fear and horror among people and students, shut down schools, and created pessimism toward” the Iranian government. 


+ Honduran president overturns ban on ‘morning after’ pill. 

On International Women’s Day, President Xiomara Castro signed an executive order overturning a 13-year-old ban on emergency contraceptive pills. Castro, the country’s first female president, took office in 2022 after running on promises of rolling back the country’s restrictive reproductive policies. 

“Today 8 March commemorates women’s historic struggle,” President Castro tweeted. “I am signing the Executive Order for the universal use of the morning-after pill.”

Hundreds of women marched through cities including Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula with demands for expanded reproductive rights and an end to femicide. Abortion is illegal in the country in all circumstances, without exceptions for rape and incest. Those convicted face up to six years in prison. The U.N. estimates that between 51,000 and 82,000 unsafe abortions are performed in Honduras each year.

Xiomara Castro (Wikimedia Commons)

“We will monitor the process of implementing the morning-after pill and we will fight for the other rights that we lack,” said reproductive rights activist Sandy Artega. “The door is now open for more sexual and reproductive rights.”


+ Spain announces planned gender-parity law.

In a Socialist Party rally on Saturday, Mar. 3, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced a plan to pass new legislation that would require a more equal representation of women and men in politics, business and public service fields. 

The law would require listed companies with more than 250 employees and an annual turnover of over €50 million to hire women in at least 40 percent of their management positions. The law would also require there to be an equal number of male and female candidates in election seasons, with the hopes of increasing gender parity in parliament. Lastly, the law would require professional associations and juries that offer awards financed with public money to ensure that women make up at least 40 percent of their executive boards. 

This announcement comes amidst the passage of a number of progressive bills by the leftist coalition government. Last month, the parliament passed a bill boosting transgender rights, expanding access to abortion care and offering menstrual leave

Sanchez said the government was “not only taking a step in favor of feminism, but in favor of Spanish society as a whole.” 


+ Hekani Jakhalu becomes the first woman elected to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly.

On Thursday, Mar. 3, ​​the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP)’s Hekani Jakhalu became the first woman to be elected to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly. In a close finish, Jakhalu received 45.16 percent of the 31,874 votes in the constituency, and the Lok Jansakthi Party (Ram Vilas Paswan)’s Azheto Zhimomi received 40.34 percent of the votes. 

Hekani Jakhalu is presented an award by former president Shri Ram Nath Kovind on International Women’s day in New Delhi, 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jakhalu told The Indian Express that she has four goals as a first time legislator: “For 17 years, I have been working for young people within the NGO sector, but there is only that much that could be done from that position. That is why I wanted to be in policy making and enter the highest decision making body in the state. So, in the state and in my constituency, my focus will be on young people — on building them and nurturing them. And of course, as a woman MLA I will be fighting for women as well…My other goal is to make Dimapur III a model constituency. It has been neglected for too long. I want everyone to have access to their basic amenities and rights. And lastly, I will be fighting for minority communities. They make up half the population in the state and are the ones who are actually electing the MLAs and ministers of the constituency. But once the MLAs are voted into power, these people are forgotten.” 


+ Canada repeals anti-abortion laws targeting women and the LGBTQ+ community.

Canadian government officials have introduced reforms to their criminal justice system that will allow individuals convicted of indecency and anti-abortion laws to clear their records. The repealed laws targeted women and LGBTQ+ individuals’ access to abortion, as well as bathhouses and nightclubs — both of which are considered safe spaces by and for queer communities.

“Canadians deserve non-discriminatory policies that put their safety first,” said Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth. She claims these past laws and regulations compromised the freedoms of LGBTQ+ communities and women.

Any individuals convicted under these laws can apply for a free expungement under the 2018 Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act

+ New organization seeks Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer visibility.

The newly-founded Two-Spirit Indigiqueer Circle seeks increased Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer visibility across Québec. “My vision for this organization as a whole is just to be able to show that we are here, and you’re not alone,” said project coordinator Kailey Karahkwinéhtha Nicholas.

Two-Spirit Indigiqueer Circle is the first province-wide organization to support Two-Spirit and LGBTQ people across all First Nations and Inuit communities in Québec. Co-founder Diane Labelle aims to provide youth with a sense of safety, security and community. “They need connection with other individuals who are from other nations who are also living the same dynamics or similar dynamics,” said Labelle.

The group is currently working with Montreal Pride to increase representation in the annual parade and develop a conference on Indigenous perspectives and realities. “On this path to reconciliation, our non-Indigenous team can’t pretend to have the expertise or lived experience to do this alone. Working with Indigenous organizations like Indigiqueer Circle is an important step on this collective journey,” said Simon Gamache, executive director of Montreal Pride.

Two-Spirit Indigiqueer Circle plans to collaborate with another organization dedicated to empowering Two-Spirit and LGBTQ people — Two Spirits of Eeyou Istchee, founded by Jo-Marie Einish. “We’re not only advocating for trying to rid communities of any sense of discrimination but to celebrate,” said Einish. “We’re saying no more homophobia, no more transphobia, but we’re also saying be loud and proud.”


+ Cameroonian women protest the high cost of living. 

Hundreds of Cameroonian women descended on their country’s capital city, Yaounde, to protest the high cost of living amid inflation and issue their demands for the government to intervene. 

The Cameroon Female Consumers Union, led by Suzanne Menanga, organized the protest. Menanga notes the group protested on International Women’s Day because more than 80 percent of the 14 million women in Cameroon are unemployed or earn very low wages, which makes it difficult to cope with rising costs. Despite the February 2023 minimum wage increase for private sector workers, living conditions for many Cameroonians have not improved. 

Many families are unable to purchase everyday items, such as bread, sugar, fish, salt, soap and vegetable oil, whose prices are up by between 18 and 45 percent. Government officials urge locals to eat locally produced food instead of imports. The protestors say it is difficult to obey these requests because the price of fertilizer has increased by 60 percent, making it difficult to grow crops locally. 

United Nations

+ A recent United Nations report explores global maternal mortality rates. 

The United Nations Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG) — comprising WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division — issued a report on Feb. 23 exploring global trends in maternal mortality. 

According to this data, approximately 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.1, launched in 2015, is to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030. At the global level, previous successes in reducing maternal mortality have stagnated in the first five years of the SDG era, from 2016 to 2020. For instance, the maternal mortality rate increased in Europe and Northern America by 17 percent and in Latin America and the Caribbean by 15 percent. Eight countries and territories saw significant percentage increases in the maternal mortality rate between 2000 and 2020: Venezuela, Cyprus, Greece, the United States, Mauritius, Puerto Rico, Belize and the Dominican Republic.

Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the U.S., research shows that abortion bans will lead to an increase in the national maternal mortality rate by 24 percent. The expected increase in Black maternal deaths if abortion were to be banned in every state jumped from 18 percent to 39 percent. “Our estimates highlight how we can prevent the post-Dobbs bans on abortion from increasing the already tragically high numbers of deaths due to pregnancy in the U.S.,” said lead researcher Amanda Stevenson of the University of Colorado Boulder. “Pregnancy shouldn’t kill people — in fact in other rich countries it very rarely does.”

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About and

Hannah Phelps is an editorial intern at Ms. and a senior at Smith College majoring in government and the study of women and gender. Her interests include educational equity, international law and transnational feminism.
Clio Morrison is an editorial intern with Ms. Magazine. She is a senior at Cornell University, double majoring in Government and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies and double minoring in Law & Society and English. She is passionate about advocating for reproductive rights through the power of writing.