International conference affirms need to link family planning, abortion care

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The essential link between abortion and family planning was an important theme at the recent International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal.  Organizers and participants recognized that in addition to strategies for preventing unwanted pregnancy, there must also be a concurrent effort by family planning providers to help women who have already experienced unwanted pregnancy.

“It is within the power of family planning programs and providers to ensure that each woman experiencing an unwanted pregnancy receives counseling, and, if she wishes to terminate the pregnancy, is referred for a safe, legal abortion in the same or a nearby facility,” said Ipas President and CEO Elizabeth Maguire at a press briefing at the start of the conference.

Ipas joined dozens of organizations in endorsing a declaration that called on donors, governments and non-governmental organizations to ensure that safe abortion care is included in comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programs.

“Despite commitments from ICPD, CEDAW, UN Millennium Development Goals 5 and 5(b) and international women’s conferences, women around the world continue to suffer death and disability due to unsafe abortion,” the statement read. “Abortion care and family planning services are intertwined; they are integral components of comprehensive women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. These services should be provided to all women irrespective of age, marital status, color, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation, socio-economic status and where they live and work.”  

Discussion of the need to integrate abortion and family planning programs was also evident during numerous technical presentations. Presentations included reports about women’s and health-care providers’ experiences, innovative programs, and programs that serve young people.  Ipas researchers presented research from Zambia and Ghana that found that when women were seen by midwives, they were more likely to leave with a contraceptive method.

Ipas Vice President for Africa, Dr. Eunice Brookman-Amissah reiterated the theme in her plenary presentation on the final day of the conference.

“The realities of women’s lives tell us that access to contraception and access to safe abortion should be inextricably linked,” she said. “Fortunately, international human rights principles and global reproductive health guidelines tell us the same thing.”

Select news articles about the Dakar conference

Breaking the Cycle of Unwanted Pregnancy and Unsafe Abortion: A Call to Action, RH Reality Check, United States

More education needed to increase contraception use, prevent unsafe abortion deaths, Joy FM, Ghana

Africa’s Abortion Wars, International Herald Tribune, United States