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Ground-Breaking Conference Takes on Abortion

LONDON, October 23 /PRNewswire/ --

- Organisers Highlight the Global Pandemic of Unsafe Abortion and Call for Universal Access to Safe Abortion Care.

Expanding access to safe abortion around the world is on the agenda at the groundbreaking Global Safe Abortion Conference beginning today in London. In an unprecedented show of global concern, nearly 800 public health experts, government representatives and women's health advocates from around the world convened to build momentum around reducing the appalling toll on women's health and lives caused by unsafe abortion.

Organisers of the Global Safe Abortion Conference, Marie Stopes International (MSI), Ipas and Abortion Rights - NGOs working to promote women's reproductive health and rights - called for increased access to safe abortion services, recognised women's right to self-determination in exercising their reproductive choices, and encouraged efforts to secure legal reform.

"At least 66,000 women annually die directly as a result of unsafe abortion," said Mark Lowcock, Director General of Policy and the International Division at the UK Department for International Development, speaking at the opening plenary. "I have been asked to speak for 15 minutes; in that time two women, probably in the developing world, probably young, will die.

"The tragedy is still greater given that we have the technology to prevent almost all of these deaths. We cannot sweep it under the carpet."

The medical journal The Lancet has called unsafe abortion one of the most neglected health issues of our time. The two-day conference highlights the global scale of this divisive issue. Representatives of nearly 60 countries are attending the meeting, which is the first-ever global conference of its kind.

MSI Chief Executive, Dana Hovig, called attention to the need for governments and donors to significantly increase their investment in making comprehensive sex education, contraception and safe abortion more widely accessible.

"All around the world, and especially in the poorest countries, unsafe abortion kills women and girls solely because they lack access to safe abortion care. Of all causes of maternal mortality, unsafe abortion is the easiest to prevent. It is time for governments and donors to step up and make resources available."

Ipas President, Elizabeth Maguire, called the continuing toll of death and injury from unsafe abortion "a moral outrage and a gross violation of women's basic human rights. How many more poor women and girls must suffer or die before we start taking action?"

"New data show that the number of deaths from unsafe abortion is virtually unchanged in the past decade," she said. "Now is the time for us to speak out loudly and to take bold action on this important issue. Unsafe abortion is a reality; the choice we have is whether to help women or let them die."

The conference addresses topics such as global evidence on the impact of unsafe abortion, abortion as a human right, and trends in the law, policy and practice. Key speakers include Bert Koenders, the Minister for Development Cooperation in the Netherlands; Dr. Paul Van Look, Director of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization; Prof. Fred Sai of Ghana; Gill Greer, Director- General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation; Dr. Eunice Brookman-Amissah, Former Minister of Health of Ghana and Ipas Vice-President for Africa; and Jon O'Brien, President of Catholics for a Free Choice.

Organisers plan to issue a Call to Action that will serve as the basis of a new global movement to reduce unsafe abortion.

SOURCE Marie Stopes International
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