Bringing abortion rights to the table at the UN’s 2018 Commission on the Status of Women

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ipas at CSW62

From March 12-23, world leaders and advocates for women’s rights from around the world will be in New York attending the United Nations’ 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), focusing this year on empowering rural women and girls.

Representatives of Ipas will be there, working alongside our partners to ensure that women’s sexual and reproductive rights—especially the right to safe, legal abortion—are included in the CSW discussions and negotiations.

“The focus on rural women and girls this year is important for us because Ipas works to improve access to reproductive health services for the hardest-to-reach women and girls, including those in rural areas,” says Liza Kimbo, director of Ipas’s Africa Alliance based in Nairobi. “African government representatives at this year’s CSW could really help advance the sexual and reproductive rights of rural women and girls in Africa. I hope they’ll seize this opportunity and push for strong language in this year’s outcome document.”

Each year’s CSW outcome document—a painstakingly negotiated agreement by all governments in attendance—becomes a standard for advocacy and accountability in global development on that year’s topic of focus. An outcome document with clear, unequivocal language that supports abortion rights and access is therefore always a primary goal for abortion rights advocates at CSW—and no easy task to achieve due to countries’ widely varying stances on abortion and vocal opposition groups.

Voices for safe abortion are essential due to Global Gag Rule

With President Trump’s expanded Global Gag Rule silencing many would-be advocates for abortion rights, Ipas and our partners who do not rely on U.S. development funds are filling an essential role in international spaces like CSW.

“Now that many of our partners are silenced, it’s more important than ever that we continue insisting abortion rights be included in discussions on the health and rights of women and girls,” says Cecilia Espinoza, Ipas senior advocacy advisor.

That’s why Ipas is investing in bringing more voices to the discussion by sponsoring health, gender and foreign affairs government representatives from various countries where we work in Africa to provide their perspectives on how to improve women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

Advocating for abortion content in sexuality education

Poor, young and rural women and girls are at higher risk for unsafe abortion because they lack access to information and safe abortion services. On March 14, Ipas and Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights will host a panel discussion to explain how access to comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health services—that include abortion as one of their key elements—must become a priority to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

“With this panel we want to stress that governments should reaffirm the importance of implementing comprehensive sexuality education programs to reduce unsafe abortion,” Espinoza says. “We hope governments will make sure this is part of CSW’s outcome document.”