After nearly a year of soliciting signatures as part of a campaign for global “safe abortion,” Marie Stopes International has little to show for it. Fewer than 500 people have signed an online petition which calls for “full access to legal, voluntary, safe and affordable abortions as part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care” around the world.
The campaign, which was co-sponsored by the pro-abortion groups Ipas and the UK-based group Abortion Rights, was launched at the International Global Safe Abortion Conference that took place in October 2007 in London, an event that was held in conjunction with the UN and UNICEF sponsored Women Deliver conference. Both the conference and the campaign seek to bolster international commitment to abortion and call “for women’s access to legal, safe abortion to be recognized as a fundamental human right.”
A detailed look at the list of campaign supporters reveal that nearly 20% of the signatures are from employees of the three sponsoring organizations. Of the 498 signatures on the campaign website, 77 are from Marie Stopes employees, 16 from Ipas employees and 3 from those who work at Abortion Rights.
The campaign says that it is “intolerable” that restrictive laws, lack of resources and “politically and ideologically-motivated interference” remain obstacles for women to access “contraceptive and abortion technologies to save women’s lives.”
The campaign disparages government programs which focus on Millennium Development Goal 5 to improve maternal health but “neglect the 13 percent of maternal deaths caused by unsafe abortion globally and fail to support the full range of preventive actions required.”
Abortion proponents often link unsafe abortion and maternal mortality to push for legal, so-called “safe” abortion. Critics of the Marie Stopes argument are quick to point out that the 13 percent figure is highly suspect, as few countries even record the sex of an individual at time of death, let alone keep records on cause of death.
Critics also challenge the assertion that legal abortion would result in fewer maternal deaths. In Poland, after abortion was severely restricted in 1993, the country showed a sharp decline in both the abortion rate and in maternal deaths. Ireland, where abortion remains illegal, reports one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world.
Marie Stopes boasts that last year alone it provided over five million people in 40 countries with sexual health and family planning counseling, “safe abortion” and post-abortive care, as well as training health professionals. Around the world, Maries Stopes has become a major player in the national health care systems of developing nations. In 2006, Marie Stopes, a registered charity, reported “amounts receivable for the provision of services” totalling almost 56 million pounds sterling, or roughly, $100 million US.
Ipas is also a giant in the abortion industry. Ipas works to “expand the availability and accessibility of medical equipment and supplies that health professionals need to deliver high-quality reproductive health services.” Ipas’ manual vacuum aspiration instruments, suction devices used to perform early abortions and “menstrual extractions,” are used and distributed worldwide.
Maries Stopes plans to present the collected signatures to world leaders at the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2008.