UN Abortion Policies
abortion policies

UN Abortion Policies

At the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) that was held in Cairo in 1994, the international community agreed in paragraph 8.25 of the ICPD Programme of Action on a common position regarding abortion:  "In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. All Governments and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are urged to strengthen their commitment to women's health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion* as a major public health concern and to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family planning services. Prevention of unwanted pregnancies must always be given the highest priority and all attempts should be made to eliminate the need for abortion. Women who have unwanted pregnancies should have ready access to reliable information and compassionate counselling. Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process. In circumstances in which abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe. In all cases women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Post-abortion counselling, education and family planning services should be offered promptly which will also help to avoid repeat abortions.View Link… *Unsafe abortion is defined as "a procedure for terminating an unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking necessary skills or in an environment lacking the minimal medical standards or both."   View Link…

The Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing in 1995, reaffirmed this agreement and recommended that countries "consider reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortions." Coerced abortion is explicitly recognized as a violation of basic human rights and principles.  View Link…

The UNFPA State of World Population reported:
"About 19 million of the estimated 45 million induced abortions performed annually are unsafe (done by untrained people in less-than-hygienic circumstances); nearly 70,000 women die as a result, representing 13 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths."
"ICPD, in a groundbreaking consensus, called for all women to have access to treatment for abortion related complications, post-abortion counselling, education and family planning services, regardless of the legal status of abortion."
"Post-abortion care is cost-effective, reduces repeat abortions and helps individuals meet their reproductive intentions. Many countries now recognize the contribution it can make to saving women's lives. For example, Kenya's 1997 reproductive health service guidelines state, The prompt treatment of post-abortion complications is an important part of health care that should be available at every district-level hospital."
"Myanmar's Department of Health integrated post abortion care and contraceptive services into existing health care at the township level. Midwives now make follow-up home visits to women with abortion related complications and provide family planning methods when requested."
"The social taboos surrounding abortion and the penalties for both women who seek abortions and those who provide them are further challenges in many countries, even where post-abortion care is legal. A study in Zimbabwe found that the most common reason given for not seeking prompt medical attention for abortion complications was fear of being reported to the police. Adolescents undergo a major share of illegal abortions. For them, stigma, shame and disapproval from providers can be intense and may discourage many from seeking treatment." View Link…

However, despite these clear international declarations against promoting abortion as a method of family planning, in reality UNFPA is promoting abortion as a method of family planning. These are just two of many examples:

First:  UNFPA has established "guidelines for abortion and pre and post counseling on abortion" in many countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Second:  Ms. Thoraya Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director, in January 2007 coerced her staff, in writing, to campaign against the Vatican's efforts to oppose the activities to promote abortion in Africa, she wrote: "The Maputo Plan of Action is on the agenda for the AU  Executive Council (session this week). Aparently, the Vatican has been calling some of  its friendly embassies so that they could raise the issue of abortion defined the Plan during the Session. I am dialoguing with the AU and the Ambassador of Mozambique.  The Ambassaodr of Mozambique will mobilise  support within SADC, ….. will do her part etc.  However, it is of the UTTER IMPORTANCE  that we call (a) ourREP in Uganda and inform her to approach the Foreign Ministry and brief them (Uganda Ambassador here  is a key country not supportive of the Plan – she is a born again etc.  But Uganda was presented in Maputo) Firstly and as well know,  the Plan is already approved . Secondly, counties will implement what they wish and what is relevant to them, the Plan is a Plan and is not binding on any country.   Thirdly, the aborition caluse in the Plan  which seems to be the problem, is for each country to follow their own domestic laws.   (b) we need to Call  at least Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana and Nigeria and uge our reps to support the Plan.  The Plan is not being submitted for approval, it is an agenda item for information however, there are those that have during the week-end raised the issue and it is going to be raised during the debated.  So, we need to pre-empt any possible distraction.  PLEASE, ….. , remind ….. to call at least two REPs and ….. can do the same,  I am trying to call some of my colleagues as well."    The names of the UNFPA staff were removed to protect their privacy.

Despite the poor English language of her instructions, it is clear that UNFPA Executive Director was urging and coercing her staff to plot and campaign to promote abortion in Africa when she instructed:

  • "the aborition caluse in the Plan  which seems to be the problem"
  • "we need to Call at least Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana and Nigeria and urge our reps to support the Plan."
  • "we need to pre-empt any possible distraction."

With these actions, UNFPA is in violation of the ICPD Programme of Action which confirms that  "In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning".  Moreover, the coercive and heavy-handed management style of UNFPA Executive Director warrants a serious review or investigation. It is unfortunate that such practices are perpetuated in the United Nations.

M. Alaadin A. Morsy

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