Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:00 AM
MSI brands Canadian Government's decision to exclude family planning from G8 maternal health initiative "a new low for political pandering to social conservatism."
Despite the deaths of over half a million women a year from pregnancy-related causes, leading women's health organisation Marie Stopes International (MSI) is today calling on the UK government not to support a major G8 maternal health initiative - for as long as it continues to marginalise family planning.
The Canadian Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon, has announced that its maternal and child health initiative, due to be launched at the G8 summit in June, will not address family planning "in any way shape or form" on the erroneous grounds that family planning is not needed to save lives.(1)
Said Dana Hovig, CEO of MSI: "There's no question that family planning saves lives by preventing unwanted pregnancies, including those that would otherwise lead to complications and hence the death or injury of the mother or child. Statistically, if the number of pregnancies falls by 10% it follows that deaths from pregnancy would also fall by around 10%. Sadly, we are only too accustomed to politicians backing out of support for safe abortion services, but to do the same to family planning is a new low for political pandering to social conservatism."
The statement by the Canadian Foreign Minister contradicts the overwhelming consensus of the global medical community. The World Health Organization describes family planning as "the first step for avoiding maternal deaths"(2) while statistical analysis by the Global Health Council suggests that about 35 percent of all maternal deaths could be eliminated if all women and men had access to contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.(3) A study by the United Nations (UNFPA) and Guttmacher Institute estimated that investing in both family planning and maternal and newborn health services together can achieve the same dramatic reductions in mortality for US$1.5 billion less than investing in maternal and newborn health services alone.(4)
"Family planning must be put back at the heart of women's health initiatives if we are to address maternal mortality in developing countries," added Hovig. "One of the key reasons why family planning is so effective as a maternal health intervention is that it can prevent women resorting to 'back-street abortions' in the many developing countries where access to safe abortion services are severely restricted. Unsafe abortions are widely acknowledged as causing 13% of maternal deaths globally.2 Decisions to exclude family planning increase the number of unsafe abortions causing more women to suffer and die unnecessarily."
"In our experience as a leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare in many countries around the world, we know that women not only need but desperately want access to family planning services and information. We urge the UK government not to lend its support to any initiative that further marginalises family planning from the mainstream support it both merits and requires."
For further information and spokesperson interview please contact:
Tony Kerridge, Senior Communications Manager:
tel: +44 (0) 7748 948 037
Emily James, Deputy Manager Press and Public Affairs:
tel: +44 (0) 207 034 2307
Notes to Editor:
1.The Globe and Mail, Birth control won't be in G8 plan to protect mothers, Tories say,
www.theglobeandmail.com (accessed 18th March 2010)
2.World Health Organization, Maternal Mortality,
www.who.int (accessed 18th March 2010)
3.Global Health Council, Sexual and Reproductive Health,
globalhealth.org (accessed 18th March 2010)
4.Guttmacher Institute, International Women's Day: The Enormous Benefits of Investing in Family Planning and Pregnancy Related Care,
www.guttmacher.org (accessed 18th March 2010)
Marie Stopes International
Marie Stopes International (MSI) delivers family planning and sexual healthcare to women throughout the world; we want to make sure that women everywhere have a choice when it comes to having children. MSI is a pioneering charity committed to delivering high quality family planning and sexual healthcare to ordinary women and wherever we work, we make sure the millions of women we see every year get the same high quality services.
The G8 Summit
On June 25-26, 2010, leaders from some of the world's most powerful countries will gather in Huntsville, Canada, for their 36th annual G8 Summit. The G8 meeting will be followed by a meeting of G20 leaders in Toronto, Canada (June 26-27, 2010).
Earlier this year, on January 26th, 2010, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Stephen Harper, announced his intention to make maternal and child health a development priority for the upcoming G8 Summit, saying that "Canada will champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world's poorest regions."
In July 2009, at the last meeting of the G8 in Italy, the G8 heads of government agreed that maternal and child health was one of the world's most pressing global health problems. They committed to "accelerat[ing] progress.on maternal health, including through sexual and reproductive health care and services and voluntary family planning."
In 2005 there were an estimated 536,000 maternal deaths due to complications in pregnancy or delivery. The vast majority of these deaths could have been prevented with obstetric care services, assisted delivery and family planning.