Statement of Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and National Abortion Federation Canada:
Since Prime Minister Harper announced that maternal health would be a development priority at the upcoming G8 Summit, Harper and members of his 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. Despite public outcry concerning the government’s remarks, and recommendations from leading scientific bodies and international aid agencies, Harper refuses to discuss including access to safe abortion care in Canada's G8 Health Initiative.
As we have seen in Canada and other countries throughout the world, access to safe, legal abortion care preserves women’s health and saves women’s lives.
We have reached out to organizations from the G8 and other countries, and more than 100 groups have joined us in signing a letter to Prime Minister Harper, urging him to include access to safe abortion care in the G8 maternal and child health initiative.
I’d like to read this letter, which we will deliver to Prime Minister Harper today.
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,” 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.
International health, human rights, and development institutions, including Amnesty International and UN Agencies, consistently link contraception and the state of 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.
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.” 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. 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.
This letter was signed by more than 100 international organizations.
If Prime Minister Harper is truly serious about improving women’s health internationally, his initiatives must address the comprehensive maternal and reproductive health care needs of women, including access to safe abortion care.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in North America. Our mission is to ensure safe, legal, and accessible abortion care to promote health and justice for women. Our members include health care professionals at clinics, doctors' offices, and hospitals, who together care for more than half the women in North America who choose abortion each year. For more information, visit our website at www.prochoice.org.