Pathfinder International Joins Global Day of Action for Access to Safe, Legal Abortion
On September 28th, national and international women’s health groups will come together in their respective countries – some acting openly for the first time—to mark the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe, Legal Abortion. This day of action has its roots in a twenty-year movement across Latin America to reverse restrictive laws that criminalize abortion and reduce stigma for women who have abortions.
The day is part of a larger international campaign, created by civil society groups around the world. The goals of the campaign are to build an international movement to promote universal access to safe, legal abortion as a women’s health and human rights issue; support women’s autonomy to make their own decisions regarding whether and when to have children; and to have access to the means of acting on those decisions without risk to their health and lives.
Pathfinder is a proud member of the advisory group for this International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion. Throughout Pathfinder’s history and current work, we have consistently taken a stand to make sure abortion is included in worldwide discussions about improving women’s health, rights, and lives.
“This is a critical health and human rights issue around the world,” Ellen Israel, Senior Technical Advisor for Women’s Health and Rights at Pathfinder International, said. “We’re still seeing far too many women denied their right to abortion and to decide their reproductive futures, and far too many who resort to unsafe abortions, which sadly “officially” account for 13 percent of maternal deaths—and that’s a low estimate.”
Around the world, in nearly all the countries where Pathfinder works, access to safe, legal abortion is limited— by law, stigma, distance to services, lack of trained providers, and cost. This results in staggeringly high numbers of unsafe abortions. Nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, and nearly 98 percent of all unsafe abortions occur in developing countries. Even in countries where abortion is not limited, like India and South Africa, unsafe abortions are prevalent.
“For me, the barriers I see are the legal definition of when an abortion can be provided and the steps that have to be taken to obtain a legal abortion,” Jayne Lyons, Pathfinder’s Director of Operations in Tanzania, said. “The lack of trained medical staff in MVA and medical abortion and lack of adequate medical care for women regarding contraception in general, are also significant factors.”
Stigma also plays a large role, especially in regards to young women seeking services. Sophia Ladha, Country Representative in South Africa, noted that a young woman recently reached out to her to share her experience when at 10 weeks pregnant, she sought to terminate her pregnancy.
“The young woman mentioned that she had heard good things about Pathfinder’s work on youth-friendly services in clinics. She decided to visit some other clinics that had not had training to see the difference and said the providers had been extremely judgmental and not helpful,” Sophia Ladha said.
Through the Day of Action, Pathfinder and the hundreds of groups who have joined hope to see a shift in international support for abortion, and to see these barriers broken down. “It is truly exciting to see the momentum that this campaign has generated,” Ellen Israel said. “We’re seeing open demonstrations and meetings in countries like Ecuador and Turkey—places where speaking about abortion is highly unusual. We’re seeing changes in legal precedent in countries that have previously restricted abortion, like Mozambique, or like Uruguay which just made abortion available to all women in the first trimester. In spite of the anti-choice backlash, especially in the US, overall, we’re heading in the right direction; now we need to continue to push forward.”
Link to the campaign at: http://www.september28.org/
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Pathfinder's Cue Cards for Counseling Adults on Contraception is featured in the November 2014 issue of BJOG.
Purnima Mane, president and chief executive officer of Pathfinder International, told IPS, “We are delighted the final set of [proposed] SDGs contains four critical targets on SRHR: three under the health goal and one under the gender goal. But we have not reached the finish line yet. We must all continue to raise our voices to ensure these SRHR targets are intact when the final version is approved."