A march in favor of decriminalizing abortion in El Salvador on March 6

Across the globe, swamped hospitals and shelter-in-place measures have impacted people's access to healthcare for any number of non-COVID-19 issues. One of them is abortion, a time sensitive procedure that is also — even the best of times — both emotionally and politically charged.

Now, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, some countries have used emergency decrees to change their policies related to pregnancy terminations. While several have extended access to abortions in an effort to ease pressure on women and guarantee their rights, others have seen the situation as an opportunity to make abortions more difficult to access.

  • In Poland, which has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, access to pregnancy terminations is now becoming even more difficult as women cannot easily travel to another country to undergo abortion. On top of that, Polish President Andrzej Duda backed in a citizen's bill last month that would outlaw abortion even when the fetus is malformed, the Catholic weekly Niedziela reported. So far, terminations in Poland have only been allowed when the fetus is malformed, the health or life of the mother is endangered, or in the event of rape or incest – with the first reason accounting for most in-country terminations. Although the bill was not passed, it was not rejected either, and is now idling in a parliamentary commission.

  • France: With overwhelmed hospitals and strict lockdown measures that until this week forced people to stay home, rights groups have raised concerns about the difficulty of accessing abortions during the epidemic, warning that some women would have to wait past the legal date. Under the normal, pre-pandemic circumstances, women can ask for prescribed abortion pills and take them at home up to seven weeks after their last menstruation, or up to nine weeks under medical supervision. But in early April, the French Health authority extended access to the medication at home up to nine weeks, to guarantee women's rights to access abortion during the epidemic and to avoid as much as possible that they go into a health facility, reported Le Parisien.

  • In the United States, abortion by telemedicine is expanding rapidly as several states, including Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma, suspended access to surgical abortions during the crisis, adding abortions on a list of "non-essential" procedures, The New York Times reported. The limited access to abortion means that many women must travel much further to abortion clinics, sometimes to different states where restrictions are milder. But with traveling also close to impossible, women resort more and more to "TelAbortion," a program that has been operating as a research study for several years and which allows women to have video consultations with certified doctors and then receive abortion pills by mail to take on their own. Concerned about the program's growth, Republican senators recently introduced a bill to ban it.

  • As a result of the pandemic, human rights organizations in Germany have warned that women might not be able to visit counseling centers, which is one of the conditions for legal abortion in the country. Access to abortion is also in danger due to the shortened opening hours of these centers, travel restrictions, shortage of medical personnel, lack of protective equipment and the fact that many doctors who perform abortions are at risk because of their age, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Women's Day Manifa march in Warsaw on March 8 — Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/ZUMA

  • The abortion issue is also making waves in Uruguay, one of just two countries in Latin America that allows women to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy. Abortion was legalized there in 2012, during the presidency of José Mujic (2010-2015), a leftist. But the country's new president, conservative Luis Lacalle Pou, opposes the practice, and in his inaugural address, on March 1, talked about defending the rights of "those who have no voice…the 10,000 children in this country who aren't born." Two months later, in a May 4 videoconference, the president reiterated his opposition to abortion, but also said he respects the laws of the land as they stand, the Uruguayan daily El País reports.

  • In Colombia, a high-profile court case linked to the country's decades-long civil war turned public attention to the issue of forced abortion. On May 11, a court in Pereira sentenced a man named Héctor Albeidis Arboleda Buitrago to more than 40 years in prison for carrying out numerous abortions, including on minors, at the behest of armed rebel groups. "El Enfermero" (The Nurse), as he's known, sold his services to different guerilla organizations over the course of seven years (1997-2004), the Colombian daily El Tiempo reports.



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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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