C-Fam Statement during the 74th World Health Assembly
Thursday, 13 May 2021, 74th Virtual World Health Assembly
Committing to implementation of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016–2030)
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to contribute. The world has made progress in reducing maternal and child deaths, but more remains to be done, and what remains is not low-hanging fruit. It will require broad improvements in infrastructure, including access to clean water, electricity, and transportation, emergency obstetric care, modern health facilities, and the well-trained health workers to operate them. According to the UNFPA’s projections, progress toward eliminating preventable maternal deaths is steadily being made, although the pace might be made faster. On the other hand, the target of eliminating “unmet need” for family planning is wildly off course, in a pattern that suggests a saturating market. We know that for all but a tiny percentage of women surveyed, the decision not to use family planning is not due to lack of access, despite widespread conflation of “unmet need” with lack of access to family planning. But when mothers die giving birth or infants die from preventable causes, there are true unmet needs going unaddressed. And there is a longstanding global consensus that these needs must be met, and giving life should be safe, no matter where one lives. This is the promise of ICPD, the MDGs, and now the SDGs, and it must be kept. This critical work cannot afford to be sidetracked by issues on which there is not, nor ever will be, consensus, such as abortion as an international right. No human rights treaty contains such a right, nor can be reasonably interpreted to include it, and when treaty bodies pressure countries to change their abortion laws, they exceed their mandates, as does the World Health Organization when it uses its own platform to elevate the treaty bodies’ work in this area. We call on the U.S., which contributes so much to global health, to hold international organizations accountable in fulfilling their promises and remaining within their mandates. Thank you.
WHO global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system within a national multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children
Thank you for providing this opportunity to contribute to this important conversation. Preventing and responding to interpersonal violence, particularly against women and children, is a critical matter and requires cooperation across multiple sectors, including health systems, as well as ending impunity for those who commit violent acts. In particular, violence, including sexual violence, in humanitarian settings remains a key issue. However, it is unfortunate that there are efforts to subvert not only international human rights law, but also international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, to imply a right to abortion. Abortion is not health care, which exists to save and protect lives, not end them, and it is not humanitarian aid, which exists to bind the wounds of those afflicted, not create new, and fatal, wounds to the most innocent and vulnerable among us. Abortion must not be regarded as a component of a multisectoral response to address interpersonal violence, either explicitly or through ambiguous or euphemistic language that has not been clearly defined and accepted by consensus in global forums. Thank you.