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Marie Stopes: State Hillary Clinton renews commitment to sexual and reproductive health - welcome news for the world's poorest women

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's renewed commitment to sexual and reproductive health is welcome news for the world's poorest women

London: In a keynote address this evening given in Washington DC, marking the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (1994), US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton renewed US support for universal access to reproductive health worldwide.

Leading global family planning and reproductive health agency Marie Stopes International issues the following statement in response to the Secretary of State's address:

"Secretary of State Clinton's address will bring renewed hope to all those people in the world living in poverty, but particularly to the women of the developing world, who simply by dint of their sex are among the most marginalised, poor and discriminated against on the planet.

"Both the Secretary of State - who has long been a champion of this cause - and the US administration itself are to be congratulated for providing leadership on this issue. We urge all 179 country signatories to International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action to follow this lead.

"The renewed commitment to family planning and sexual and reproductive health - which are so fundamentally important to the health and wellbeing of nations - bring these issues back to centre stage as international priorities after years of neglect at the hands of ideological zealots.

"With the US taking a lead for the first time in a decade, the 200 million couples worldwide who want to control their fertility but are unable to access modern contraception methods may now find the means to do so; and we may begin at long last to see some real reductions in the intolerably high numbers of women - over half a million every year - who die as a consequence simply of being pregnant. These tragic deaths are unnecessary, because they are so easily preventable.

"Ms Clinton's statement is especially timely ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) next year. The fifth MDG (MDG 5), which aims for a 75% reduction in maternal mortality rates, has seen the least progress of all. Without significant commitment to, and investment in, family planning there is little chance of reaching MDG 5.

"As one of the world's leading family planning agencies, Marie Stopes International stands ready to work with the governments around the world to meet the challenge of achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health, which with this new impetus is now far more likely to be met than ever before."

ends

All statements within quotation marks are attributable to Dana Hovig, Chief Executive, Marie Stopes International

For further information contact: Tony Kerridge Tel: +44 (0) 207 034 2365 / +44 (0) 7748 948037

Notes to the editor

1. Marie Stopes International

Marie Stopes International (MSI) is one of the largest sexual and reproductive health providers in the world and cares for millions of people every year. MSI's services include family planning, safe abortion, post abortion care, maternal and child healthcare such as safe delivery and the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.

Founded in 1976, MSI's global partnership spans over 40 countries across Asia, Africa, the Arab world, Latin America and Europe. MSI's global partner network reaches millions of lives, empowering women and men to make safe and informed reproductive choices, so they can have children by choice, not chance.

2. International Conference on Population and Development and Millennium Development Goal 5

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) is a key internationally agreed policy document supporting reproductive rights. The Programme of Action (PoA) emphasises that sexual reproductive health and rights, as well as women's empowerment and gender equality, are cornerstones of development and should be offered without coercion and made available to everybody who needs them, regardless of their age, sex, or marital status. One of the primary goals of the PoA is making family planning universally available by 2015.

This objective was reinforced in 2000 when world leaders launched the Millennium Declaration and adopted eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that 192 United Nations member states have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include reducing extreme poverty, reducing child and maternal mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development. The fifth MDG (MDG 5) aims for a 75% reduction in maternal mortality rates. This is the MDG which has seen the least progress.

MGD 5b calls for universal access to reproductive health, including contraceptive prevalence rate, adolescent birth rate, antenatal care coverage and unmet need for family planning.

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