As you may know, Canada is hosting the G8 & G20 meetings this June. As host to the meetings, the Canadian Prime Minister wants to make maternal health a priority. However, he does not want to include contraception nor access to abortion where it is legal, nor health care for women who have had an illegal abortion. NAF has prepared the attached letter and we are asking for as many organizations to sign-on to this letter. This will demonstrate to the Prime Minister that the international community believes that any maternal health initiative cannot exclude these elements.
Would you be willing to have your organization listed as an organization supporting the letter that we will send just before the meeting? Would you also be willing to circulate this letter to other organizations in Russia asking for their support. If they are willing to support the letter please have them get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add their organization’s name to the letter. I need to know by the end of next week if you are willing to have your organization listed to this letter.
I appreciate very much your help and support for this very important challenge. It is really important to have as many organizations as possible from the G8 countries sign on to this letter so I very much hoping you will agree to have your organization list.
National Abortion Federation
Here is the letter:
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
Earlier this year, you announced that maternal health will be a development priority at the G8 Summit in June. However, since this announcement, members of your cabinet have publicly stated that the government’s maternal health strategy will not address unsafe abortions in developing countries or support access to family planning and contraceptives. While we commend your commitment to “champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world’s poorest regions,”1 we know that in order to do so, the initiative must address the comprehensive maternal and reproductive health care needs of women, including access to safe abortion care.
The scientific evidence is overwhelming—access to safe, legal abortion care preserves women’s health and saves women’s lives. Unsafe abortion remains one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in developing nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 70,000 women worldwide die from unsafe abortions annually and millions more are injured, many permanently.2
International health and development agencies, including Amnesty International and the United Nations, consistently link contraception and maternal health in the developing world. Recent research by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also found that seventy percent of maternal deaths would be averted and newborn deaths cut nearly in half, if existing unmet family planning and maternal and newborn health needs were met.3
At last year’s G8 Summit in Italy, the G8 heads of government agreed that maternal and child health was one of the world’s most pressing global health problems. They committed to “accelerat[ing] progress…on maternal health, including through sexual and reproductive health care and services and voluntary family planning.”4 It is imperative that the work done in Canada build on—not backtrack from—previous commitments. Sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially access to family planning, including contraception and safe abortion care, must be a central component of the initiative.
The G8 Summit comes at a critical time. In addition to the G8 and G20 meetings in Canada, world leaders will gather at the United Nations in September 2010, to take stock of progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including MDG5 to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters and establish universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.5 This is the Goal toward which the least progress has been made by governments. The G8 maternal and child health initiative must be situated within the broader strategy toward achievement of the eight MDGs by 2015.
This is a significant opportunity to champion the health of some of the world’s poorest women. We ask that you honour Canada’s long-standing tradition of recognizing women’s reproductive rights and urge you to include access to contraception and abortion care in your initiative to improve maternal health care.
4 Paragraph 122 of the conclusions from the 2009 G8 reads: “We promote a comprehensive and integrated approach to the achievement of the health-related MDGs, also maximizing synergies between global health initiatives and health systems. We will accelerate progress on combating child mortality, including through intensifying support for immunization and micronutrient supplementation, and on maternal health, including through sexual and reproductive health care and services and voluntary family planning. We warmly support building a global consensus on maternal, newborn and child health as a way to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals for both maternal and child health, through (i) political and community leadership and engagement; (ii) a quality package of evidence-based interventions through effective health systems; (iii) the removal of barriers to access for all women and children, free at the point of use where countries chose to provide it; (iv) skilled health workers; (v) accountability for results. We encourage the work of the WHO, WB, UNICEF and UNFPA are doing to renew international efforts on maternal and child health. We will implement further efforts towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010, with particular focus on prevention and integration of services for HIV/TB….” See: http://www.g8italia2009.it/static/G8_Allegato/G8_Declaration_08_07_09_final,0.pdf