IPPF Leads Push for Abortion Rights as UN Prepares for High-Level MDG Review

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) launched a new campaign this week called “A Promise is A Promise,” demanding that states implement policies and programs to achieve the controversial Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target 5b on “universal access to reproductive health by 2015.”

According to IPPF, “universal access to reproductive health refers to a full package of services including comprehensive sexuality education, access to contraception, maternity care, emergency obstetric care, and safe abortion services …”  The IPPF event was promoted as an UN-sponsored meeting to get input from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the high level MDG Summit that will take place in the fall.

IPPF Director-General Gill Greer said advocates “must make up for lost opportunity” and that “the universal access to reproductive health target is not optional.”  Greer claimed that though “universal access to reproductive health” was not included in the MDGs in 2000, in 2005 states “recognized the missing link” to reproductive health.

UN member states have pointed out a number of times that no new targets, particularly, no new target on “reproductive health” was ever negotiated or agreed to by the General Assembly, the main decision-making body of the UN.  Prior to both the Millennium Summit in 2000 and the MGD five-year review in 2005, abortion activists pushed hard for a separate goal on reproductive health, but failed.  Since those failed attempts, activists have sought to link reproductive health to existing MDGs. In 2006, in the annex of a report published by then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a “new” target 5b on “universal access to reproductive health by 2015″ appeared though this was never agreed to by the General Assembly.

Greer said IPPF would continue to argue for “safe, legal abortion” and that the organization would work to “ensure that these issues will not be forgotten again” at the MDG review in September.

In keeping with the organization’s renewed focus on youth and adolescents, the IPPF panel featured Neha Sood from the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, who argued that “the MDGs cannot be achieved unless it is acknowledged that young people are sexual beings and have sexual and reproductive health need, and sexual and reproductive rights.”

Sood said, “Legal barriers that hinder access to sexual and reproductive health services must be removed,” including spousal or parental consent laws, inequitable age-of-consent laws, and the criminalization of sex work, HIV transmission and same-sex sexual activity.”

IPPF’s “Promise is a Promise” campaign brings together an all-star lineup of abortion advocates, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, Ipas, and the International Women’s Health Coalition, among others, to push countries to commit to greater action and financial commitment for “reproductive health.” Critics expect this and other similar campaigns to ramp up at the UN as UN member states negotiate MDG Summit outcome document over the coming weeks.

The MDG Summit is scheduled to take place at UN headquarters in New York from September 20-22.

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