Next month in Washington, DC, abortion advocates will team up with UN agencies and corporate sponsors to host the Women Deliver 2 conference. A follow-up to the first conference held in London in October 2007, next month’s meeting is shaping up to be a bigger money grab than its predecessor. According to the conference website, “There is just enough time, if the world commits funding now, to achieve MDG 5,” which they claim requires an “additional US$10 billion annually by 2010 and US$20 billion by 2015.”
Women Deliver argues while donor funding for maternal, newborn and child health has increased significantly in the past few years, from US$2.1 billion in 2003 to almost US $3.5 billion in 2006, it remains far below the total funding needs. Women Deliver organizers are stressing that the $30 billion is needed from governments and the international community “to provide essential services to all women in developing countries to meet MDG 5 (Improve Maternal Health) by 2015.”
Originally founded as an initiative of the abortion advocacy group Family Care International (FCI), Women Deliver has morphed into a separate organization, though still based at FCI headquarters in New York.
The first Women Deliver conference was billed as a conference focused on maternal, child and newborn health and reducing maternal mortality, but participants were overwhelmed by the conference’s abortion focus. The agenda was organized by Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, and the majority of discussions focused on securing funding and harnessing political will for “reproductive rights,” a term that has been interpreted by UN committees to include abortion on demand. One organizer bluntly told C-FAM’s Susan Yoshihara that the Women Deliver conference was a “pro-choice conference.”
Women Deliver 2 is maintaining its focus on abortion. According to the organization, the third of the “three pillars” to save women’s lives is access to abortion. Nearly one-quarter of the 110 breakout sessions will focus on abortion, “reproductive rights” or family planning. Apart from the abortion focus, there are over a dozen sessions that take aim at obstacles to the “reproductive rights” agenda – namely, religion and existing laws.
The organizing committee of Women Deliver 2 reads like a who’s who of the abortion industry. Abortion advocacy groups on the conference committee include: the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Women’s Health Coalition, Marie Stopes International, Ipas, and abortion advocates from across the globe. Corporate sponsors include ExxonMobil and pharmaceutical industry giants GlaxoSmithKline and Tibotec.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank are listed as both conference partners and conference donors. While these agencies have partnered with conference organizers, critics stress that Women Deliver is not a UN conference, despite the traction it has gained amongst some high level UN officials, like Thoraya Obaid of UNFPA, who has been regularly promoting Women Deliver 2 in her recent speeches and statements.
Women Deliver 2 will take place in Washington, DC from June 7-9.