Women’s right to decide

In the last few years, well organized conservative groups have been challenging women’s rights and gaining ground in the United States, Europe and on the international stage.

The International Cairo Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) of 1994 held that all women should have access to family planning services and post-abortion care, whatever the legislation in place in the country. 179 countries signed the Cairo action plan and committed to guaranteeing universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2015, with the following objectives:

  • To guarantee universal access to contraceptive methods
  • To treat illegal abortion as a public health issue
  • To reduce post-abortion health complications

Twenty years later, women’s rights are still often questioned and states have not fulfilled their promises. 220 million women still have no access to safe and efficient contraceptive methods and more than one in ten births in the world are to mothers aged 15 to 19 years.  Moreover, the number of illegal abortions has reached alarming levels: in 2008, almost 1 in 2 abortions in the world took place in deplorable conditions.

Unplanned pregnancies, a public health issue

Unplanned pregnancies (i.e. 40% of pregnancies in the world) account for some of the main factors in maternal illness and mortality. are a leading cause of maternal illness and mortality. They frequently result in high-risk early- and late-term pregnancies and high rates of illegal abortion procedures.  22 million unplanned pregnancies end in unsafe abortions.

The most effective way to prevent unnecessary maternal mortality and illness is through accessible family planning services and safe and legal abortion care. It is a woman’s right to decide what to do with her own body, « to choose freely and with due discernment whether or not to have children, how many children to have and when to have them.” It is the duty of the international humanitarian community to uphold that right.

 

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