International Human Rights Day, 12.09.2012

December 10, 2012 • Family Planning, Serial Dramas, Daily Email Recap

Today (Sunday, 12.09.2012)  is international Human Rights Day, which celebrates The Universal Declaration of Human Rightsadopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10th, 1948. It also marks the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, an international effort originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. As you know, PMC works against gender-based violence in many of our programs and with our electronic game, Breakaway.

Below is a quite relevant editorial on women’s issues, written by The Lancet in late November, 2012. Recall that Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, has recently noted that, “Family planning is not a privilege, but a right. Yet, too many women-and men-are denied this human right.”

When Savita Halappanavar died in Galway University Hospital, Ireland, last month from sepsis after having been denied a termination of pregnancy during a threatened miscarriage, an outcry went through the developed world. Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws have caused public anger before, for example in 1992, when a 14-year-old rape victim was prevented from travelling to England for an abortion but was eventually given the right to abortion on the grounds of suicide risk. Maternal deaths are thankfully now rare in developed countries. But any such death is avoidable and makes it all the more important to critically examine laws and guidelines. The Irish Government should thoroughly review and reassess its ambiguous abortion law.

The story is a different one in the developing world. According to global estimates for 2008, of about 350 000 maternal deaths all but about a 1000 happened in developing countries, the majority in Africa. The leading causes are post-partum haemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, sepsis, obstructed labour, and complications from unsafe abortions. Access to safe abortion remains the neglected taboo in discussions about reproductive health and family planning. Every year, of an estimated 43·8 million abortions, 49% are classified as unsafe and nearly all (97%) in Africa are unsafe. The percentage of unsafe abortions has increased from 44% in 1995 according to Gilda Sedgh and colleagues’ paper on global abortion rates published at the beginning of this year. And while maternal mortality overall has declined, mortality from unsafe abortions has remained the same at an estimated 47 000 women each year. An additional 5 million women suffer disabilities related to unsafe abortions. Without access to legal and safe abortions, many women will continue to die needlessly. WHO’s new guidelines on safe abortions, published in July this year, should form an essential part of each country’s plan to reduce maternal deaths.

To read the full editorial, please click here:

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