UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11, 2011 (IPS) – U.N. members and all development actors should take urgent action and show stronger political will to make a final push to achieve universal access to reproductive health, empower women and reduce poverty, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the U.N. Population Fund, (UNFPA) said Monday.
One of the most urgent actions they should take is close the $24-billion gap in funding to implement the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), said Dr. Osotimehin, making his first address to the Commission on Population and Development, in his capacity as UNFPA Executive Director. The funds would be invested to meet the needs of today’s 1.8 billion young people and 1.8 billion women of childbearing age.

“We need to keep pushing to make universal access to reproductive health a reality,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “Investing in the health and rights of women and young people is not an expenditure; it is an investment in our future”.

This was underlined in a recent report of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which states that family planning and demographic change alone cut poverty by one seventh in developing nations between 1960 and 2000 and could produce another one-seventh drop by 2015, in world that will soon have seven billion people.

The Secretary-General also reported that, if existing unmet needs for modern contraceptives were satisfied, “nearly 100,000 maternal deaths could be averted” and “unintended pregnancies could be cut by 71 per cent.” Currently, 358,000 maternal deaths occur annually.

The UNFPA Executive Director sought urgent action because, “some 215 million women in developing countries, who want to plan and space their births, do not have access to modern contraception.” Each year, he added, “neglect of sexual and reproductive health results in an estimated 80 million unintended pregnancies; 22 million unsafe abortions; and 358,000 deaths from maternal causes—including 47,000 deaths from unsafe abortion.”

The current session of the Commission on Population and Development, which opened Monday , is scheduled to conclude on Friday, 15 April

Reader diary posted by Joyce Arthur, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

December 9, 2010 – 8:40pm

Researchers at the World Health Organization have recently documented a substantial 48% decrease in the numbers of unsafe abortion deaths. In 2008, 47,000 women a year lost their lives from complications of unsafe abortion, compared to 70,000 in 2003. But the bad news is that unsafe abortions have not decreased and are still the predominant way that women end pregnancies in developing countries. Abortions appear to a bit less unsafe because more women are turning to safer medical abortion pills to induce their own abortion.

Unsafe abortion deaths are a direct consequence of antiquated and cruel laws against abortion. About 21.6 million unsafe abortions occurred worldwide in 2008, almost all in developing countries where abortion is illegal. (This compares to 19.7 million in 2003, with the rise due to the increasing number of women of childbearing age in the world.) Among women who survive unsafe abortion, an estimated 8.5 million suffer complications, with 1 in 4 needing medical attention.

In contrast, death from unsafe abortion has been virtually eliminated in western industrialized countries that have legalized abortion, and the complication rate is extremely low. When abortion is legalized in a country, there is typically a dramatic decline in maternal deaths and complications due to abortion. This pattern has been repeated numerous times since the 1950’s when abortion was first legalized in former Eastern Bloc countries.

Legal abortion saves women’s lives and improves their health because without it, women risk their safety by resorting to unsafe illegal abortion. The right to abortion also advances women’s equality, liberty, and other human rights, freeing women to pursue an education and career and to participate fully in public life. Access to abortion allows women to better plan and provide for their families, which benefits the entire community and society. Unplanned births of unwanted children can be very crippling to women and families, leading to higher rates of poverty and dysfunction, including child abuse. These factors make the provision of safe and legal abortion a vital public health interest that negates any justification for criminalizing the procedure.

Yet here we are, one decade into the 21st century, and almost every developing country in the world continues to enforce a near-total criminal ban on abortion. Abortion is illegal primarily in Africa, Latin America, and some parts of Asia, as well as a tiny handful of developed countries like Poland and Ireland. However, all countries with more liberal abortion laws still retain abortion as a criminal offence with exceptions, or have enacted further legal restrictions that make it difficult to access.

If the intent behind banning abortions is to stop or reduce them, it’s been a total failure. In 2007, the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute found that overall abortion rates around the world are similar, regardless of whether or not abortion is illegal in a country. This is because countries with strict anti-abortion laws have well-developed black markets for abortion. The global average abortion rate for women of childbearing age (15-44) was 29 per 1,000 women in 2003, with the highest number of abortions occurring in countries where it’s highly restricted and in countries with poor access to contraception. Eastern Africa’s rate was 39 per 1,000 women, while South America’s rate was 33. (more…)