Ground-Breaking Conference Takes on Abortion

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

    LONDON, Oct. 23 /CNW/ - 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
    "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
    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
    "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
    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.

For further information:

For further information: Diana Thomas, MSI, +44-(0)777-1681-265; Tony
Kerridge, MSI, +44-(0)7748-948-037; Kirsten Sherk, Ipas, +44-(0)750-4490-641

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