Abortion is the Focus of First Day of UN Conference on Maternal Mortality
By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D. (NEW YORK — C-FAM) The United Nation's second in command announced today that the United Nations must make “sexual and reproductive health a priority in order to improve development.” Dr. Asha-Rose Magiro, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, speaking at the Women Deliver conference in London, said that to reduce maternal mortality, “We know what needs to be done. Access to sexual and reproductive health services, family planning, skilled care, emergency care, and trained midwives.”
Following Magiro’s remarks, Francisco Songare, MD, Director of the UN’s Partnership for Maternal and Newborn Health, said that the first priority in reducing maternal mortality “must be sexual and reproductive health – abortion – and without taboos!” Second to abortion, Songare said, was the need for skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care. The Partnership for Maternal and Newborn Health is a UN initiative chaired by UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Deputy Executive Director. Funding sexual and reproductive rights is a primary focus of the conference. At the beginning of the conference, the UK announced it would give an additional 200 million pounds [$400 million] to UNFPA over the next five years to “give women real contraceptive services.” Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said later, “The UK funding commitment has been negotiated for two years, but it was because of this conference that they felt pressure to make some announcement today.”
Nafis Sadik, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General for HIV/AIDS said that linking sexual and reproductive health to AIDS is critical because government support for sexual and reproductive health has fallen while enthusiasm and funding for AIDS has risen since the 1990s. Steve Sinding, Senior Fellow at the Guttmacher Institute echoed this, saying that the way to solve the reproductive health funding problem is to tie it to “the current preoccupation of development leaders” by showing that fertility decline is necessary for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to link family planning to HIV/AIDS programs and funding.
Another focus of the conference is on linking maternal mortality to international human rights obligations. Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and president of the non-governmental organization Realizing Rights, said that, “We need passion and collective anger…we must center sexual and reproductive health now. It must be prioritized to reach the Millennium Development Goals, especially goal five [on maternal mortality].” Robinson’s home country of Ireland has the world’s lowest maternal mortality rate according to a UN report released just this week, and Ireland has some of the most protective pro-life laws in the world.
Dr. Robert Walley, ObGyn, Executive Director of MaterCare International told the Friday Fax, “It is ridiculous to address abortion and contraception at a conference about maternal mortality. By definition, a maternal mortality involves a pregnant woman, not a pregnancy that has been avoided or aborted. We have known for many years how to help prevent a woman’s death by emergency obstetrics and skilled birth attendants. It is a shame that these leaders want to divert attention from the real needs of women -- giving her the best of obstetrical care based on life, hope, and the dignity of motherhood.”
Are the "Dominicans at the United Nations" involved? Is this issue a priority for those called to protect the weakest among us--the ideal of social justice?