Pro-choice organisations and those working to tackle maternal mortality were dismayed at the recent news that the Canadian Government insisted on excluding the issue of safe abortion from its new maternal and child health initiative announced for the G8 summit meeting in June 2010. While international funding for family planning services has long been a contentious and political issue in the US, until recently, Canada joined the rest of the developed world in supporting international initiatives to support safe, legal abortion internationally. In response to this recent shift, the Anna Project has been launched.
Unsafe abortion is a major contributor to maternal deaths around the globe. Most maternal deaths result from the lack of trained birth attendants to recognise and address serious problems during and after labour, but botched backstreet or self-induced abortions still account for about 13% of maternal deaths – 70,000 a year. Tens of thousands more women each year will survive illegal abortion, but suffer serious gynaecological injuries and infections that can affect their health for the rest of their lives. It seems crazy that a country like Canada, which provides access to safe abortion for all its citizens, should explicitly refuse actively to support safe abortion for women elsewhere. Last year, the UK Government Department for International Development (DfID) published a paper which stated its commitment to supporting provision of safe abortion around the world. DfID states explicitly that ‘This preventable mortality and ill-health due to unsafe abortion is seriously undermining countries’ ability to achieve MDG 5* (to improve maternal health) and places a high burden on already over-stretched health systems.’
Marie Stopes recently launched a website about the issue of global unsafe abortion:
MDG* – the United Nations Millennium Development Goals were goals set to accelerate progress and improvement across a range of areas including maternal health, infant mortality, poverty, environment etc.