Organisations and individuals from across the globe have called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and heads of UN agencies to make International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September, an official UN Day. As one of the signatories to the Open Letter to the UN, Simavi believes that lack of access to safe and legal abortion is a major obstacle to the fulfilment of women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
“The annual number of abortions worldwide has increased from 50.4 million (1990-94) to 56.3 million (2010-14) because of population growth. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures. Yet half of all abortions are unsafe, making the need for concerted action urgent. Women are still suffering and dying from complications of unsafe abortion.”
In an Open Letter addressed to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and heads of UN agencies, the signatories, composed mainly of health and rights organisations and activists, state a number of reasons for the UN recognition of International Safe Abortion Day as an official UN day. Among them are public health reasons.
“Globally, deaths from unsafe abortion were estimated at 43,684 in 2013, accounting for 14.9% of all maternal deaths. Since ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development) 1994, in fact, almost 1 million women have died from unsafe abortions. These deaths were almost all unnecessary and avoidable. Post-abortion care for complications of unsafe abortion was provided to 6.9 million women in developing regions in 2012, costing health systems an estimated US$ 232 million. Thus, post-abortion care in a situation of continuing illegality of abortion has proven since 1994 not to be an answer,” the letter states.
Signatory to the UN petition
As one of the signatories to the UN petition, Simavi considers the realisation of women and girls’ SRHR to be crucial in attaining basic health for all. Lack of access to safe and legal abortion is a major obstacle to fulfilling this goal.
Call for safe abortion
The call for safe abortion is in line with a number of international inter-governmental commitments, beginning with the ICPD Programme of Action in 1994, the Beijing Women’s Conference Platform for Action 1995, regional agreements such as the Convención de Belém do Pará in 1996 and, more recently, the Maputo Protocol of 2005. The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make note of the obligation of states to fulfil women’s SRHR by 2030 (Goal 3.7 and 5.6). These commitments have recognised that unsafe abortion is a serious public health problem and that abortions need to be performed safely.
The date 28 September was declared an international day of action for the decriminalisation of abortion in 1990 by the women’s health movement and has been celebrated annually ever since.
The more than 400 organisations and individuals from 73 countries who signed the Open Letter believe that recognising 28 September as a UN Day will send a strong signal to the international community and to governments around the world, and represent a simple but highly symbolic statement of support for safe abortion.
Integrating safe abortion in SRHR
Simavi believes that there are several factors that prevent unsafe abortions. These range from using contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancy, to less restrictive abortion laws and increased access to safe abortion services. In all our programmes we work simultaneously on the three pillars of our theory of change to improve the SRHR situation:
First, we empower women and communities to prevent unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Simavi raises awareness with every member of a community – women, girls, men and boys – on their sexual and reproductive health and rights. This includes information about the health risks of unsafe abortions and the rights and options women have to access safe abortion services.
Secondly, we create an enabling environment in which women are able to access contraceptives and safe abortion services. It is crucial to remove stigmas and taboos surrounding abortion.
Finally, we ensure access to sustainable and affordable safe abortion services and contraceptives. It is essential that women have access to affordable and quality contraceptives, as well as safe abortion services. Simavi improves the delivery of quality services by building the capacity of health workers and strengthening health systems. We ensure that health workers are trained on national safe abortion guidelines and are able to provide safe abortion services (when it is legal to do so). We also train health workers in post-abortion care to treat women who have undergone incomplete or unsafe abortions.
To find out more about access to safe and legal abortion, please read our Factsheet here.
Find out how you can participate in the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe Abortion through International Campaign For Women’s Right to Safe Abortion and september28.org.