Reproductive rights focus of UN-backed conference of lawmakers in Ottawa

Reproductive rights focus of UN-backed conference of lawmakers in Ottawa

Actions to safeguard women’s reproductive rights, improve access to reproductive health services, reduce maternal mortality and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS are high on the agenda of a United Nations-supported conference that opened today at the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa.

About 100 lawmakers from 70 countries are attending the two-day conference to discuss how they can help to secure funding and strengthen laws, policies and services so that all women and men can enjoy the right to reproductive health.

“We cannon confront today’s massive challenges of poverty, hunger, disease and environmental destruction unless we address the issues of population and reproductive health,” stressed Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

According to UNFPA, a woman dies from a pregnancy-related cause every minute. Another 58 million women give birth each year without any medical help while 350 million women are denied access to safe and effective family planning methods.

At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, 179 countries supported universal access to reproductive health care by the year 2015. Governments also signed a Programme of Action, moving away from demographic targets and family planning quotas to giving free access to reproductive information.

UNFPA said the Ottawa conference would give lawmakers an opportunity to outline actions they can take to ensure that the goals set eight years ago in Cairo are fulfilled. At the end of the conference, lawmakers are expected to sign a Statement of Commitment, outlining specific actions they will take in their countries to promote reproductive health and rights and move the Cairo agenda forward.