The Hague Forum
(Sponsored by UNFPA in preparation for Cairo + 5)
Jeanne E. Head, RN., U.N. Representative
International Right to Life Federation, Inc.
February 11, 1999
My name is Jeanne Head. I am the International Right to Life Federation’s Representative to the Unite Nations in New York. International Right to Life Federation is a worldwide, non-sectarian federation of pro-life organizations from over 170 countries.
We are dedicated to the protection of all innocent human life from conception to natural death. We see a woman’s life as a continuum deserving compassionate protection and support beginning at her conception and proceeding throughout her entire life cycle.
It is important to remember that abortion was rejected as a fundamental right or as a method of family planning by the ICPD. The Cairo Programme of Action specifically states that “In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning (paras 8.25 & 7.24).”
There was no mandate in the Cairo’ document to promote changing the laws of the approximately 95 countries that have laws that are protective or somewhat protective of unborn children. These laws cover 37 percent of the world’s population, or over two billion persons.
In addition, the Cairo governing chapeau (Chapter II, Principles) specifically recognized national sovereignty in this regard, “with full respect” for religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds.
The activities and papers attached to this Forum (Hague Forum) indicate an effort to violate these agreements and re-open the Cairo debate.
For example: The UNFPA background paper prepared for this Forum under “Further Action Required” – “Developing Reproductive Health Policies”, para 249 states that “Governments should enact and implement legislation and policies required to meet the commitments made in Cairo, using ail necessary and appropriate means, such as removing restrictive laws.”
As an Obstetric nurse who has spent my life caring for women having babies, I would like to make a plea to the delegations to put greater resources and emphasis on improving health care in the developing world, particularly maternal health care.
I have grave concern about the false and dangerous claims that the way to reduce maternal mortality in the developing world is to legalize abortion.
Dr. Donna Harrison, an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, who has experience as a volunteer in a Haitian development cooperative, has stated that making abortion legal in the developing countries would result in increased maternal deaths and injuries.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the dramatic decline in maternal mortality in the developed world coincided “. . . with the development of obstetric techniques and improvements in the general health status of women.”
There is ample data for documenting this in the U.S. where the most significant impact of legalization of abortion has been an increase in the number of abortions (from approximately 200,000 per year to 1,500,000 per year).
The U.S. Planned Parenthood’s Alan Guttmacher Institute, in a report of June, 1994 stated: “In most countries, it is common after abortion is legalized for abortion rates to rise sharply for several years, then stabilize, just as we have seen in the United States”.
In the U.S. where abortion has been legal for over twenty-five years, and where health standards are high, women are still dying from botched abortions. And the maternal mortality rate is four times that of Ireland where abortion is not legal and which has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world.
The key, therefore, to reduction in maternal mortality rates from all causes, including abortion, is the improvement maternal health care, not the legalization of abortion. In the developing world–where medical care, antibiotics, and even basic asepsis are scarce or absent – promoting abortion would increase,not decrease maternal mortality.
And, of course, abortion is never safe for the youngest member of the human family–the unborn child, who at the time of an abortion at eight or ten weeks already has a beating heart, brain waves, eyes, ears, fingers and toes.
It is important to provide compassionate and effective care for the other victim of abortion–the woman. Women suffer serious physical, emotional, psychological damage from so-called “safe legal” abortion.
In addition to the vast pro-life network of crises pregnancy centers, we are involved throughout the world in compassionate counseling and care of women damaged by abortion.
We are also concerned that there is little or no reference to the family unit in the Background Paper for this Forum. And there are no recommendations that Governments utilize resources and create structures to strengthen and support the family unit which is the basic unit of society.
Also, there is no reference to parental rights and responsibilities in regard to education, reproductive health, or sex education.