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The “Women Deliver” Conference: A Failure to Deliver Solutions that Truly Protect Women

The Women Deliver conference concluded earlier this month, but the organizers’ agenda, including strategies to expand access to abortion, is far from over.  The theme of this year’s global conference, “Delivering Solutions for Women and Girls,” particularly focused on women’s health.  The hundreds of individuals who attended the Conference returned home, however, with “solutions” that fail to protect women’s health and overall well-being.

Throughout the various panels at the conference, there was a heavy emphasis that there exists a new international human right to maternal health, which encompasses a right to “safe abortion.”  Pro-abortion advocates discussed strategy, implementation methods, and country status to discover the best way to liberalize abortion laws and provide greater access to abortion around the world.

Under the facade of empowering women and improving their lives, speakers also discussed strategies to de-stigmatize abortion to assist women in becoming more comfortable with the abortion procedure.  These strategies include providing “Values Clarification” courses that introduce fabricated justifications for undergoing an abortion.

In a panel entitled, “The Know-Do Gap: The Case of Unsafe Abortion,” which highlighted how changes regarding abortion can be operationalized at different levels, Anu Kumar, the Executive Director of Ipas[1], stated that the goal to improve maternal health and decrease maternal mortality will never be realized if the necessity of “safe abortion” is not recognized.  Despite contrary evidence[2], Kumar asserted that maternal mortality will only decrease when abortion laws are liberalized.    

Elizabeth Aahman, who works in the Division of Family and Reproductive Health with the World Health Organization, spoke at length on “unsafe abortion” and maternal mortality.  She emphasized what many other panelists stated, namely, that abortion is the “‘human rights’ challenge of our time.”  Aahman said that it is important to adopt a human rights framework on issues of women’s health because when abortion is viewed as a human right and a necessary component of quality healthcare, doctors, nurses, midwives, and other healthcare providers are obligated to provide abortion.  No longer is abortion something tolerated; rather, under this “human rights” framework, refusing to perform an abortion becomes a human rights violation.

For pro-abortion advocates to apply the human rights language to a procedure that kills one human person and irreversibly impacts the health and well-being of another person fundamentally undermines the meaning of human rights and ignores the fact that there is simply no binding international “right” to abortion.   Human rights exist to preserve and safeguard life—a solution to improving women’s health worldwide that demands access to abortion fails to provide a legitimate framework to establish genuine care or justice for women.  Abortion, whether legal or illegal, “safe” or unsafe, remains a procedure that severely and irreversibly injures the woman physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

If those who participated in the Women Deliver conference sincerely desire to enhance and protect the lives and health of women, they must end the charade that there is an international right to abortion and provide life-affirming healthcare options, better support systems for poor women and their families, and greater assistance to young and single mothers.  Embracing and affirming the entire woman, including her procreative abilities, offers genuine “solutions” for improving women’s lives.

[1] An organization that works internationally to ensure women have the ability to exercise their reproductive and sexual and reproductive rights, which includes increasing access to and the legalization of abortion.

[2] See http://www.aul.org/2010/03/groundbreaking-study-finds-abortion-bans-do-not-harm-women/ and http://www.aul.org/2010/03/real-reproductive-justice-relies-on-medical-reality/.