Professor Mahmoud Fathalla, former FIGO president, boldly spoke the truth
My colleagues and I are deeply saddened by the news of Professor Mahmoud Fathalla’s passing. As an OB-GYN who served in various positions with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), Fathalla devoted his life to advancing women’s reproductive health and rights.
What many of us at Ipas admired most about Fathalla was his willingness to call out how patriarchy prevents women’s reproductive health care from receiving the attention, funding and sense of urgency it needs and deserves.
Fathalla’s most famous quote is one I’ve seen featured in countless Ipas materials and colleagues’ email signatures over the years: “Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to decide their lives are worth saving.”
For those of us in the abortion rights movement, there could be no better critique of the public health crisis that is unsafe abortion—and the senseless, preventable deaths and injuries that result—in places where abortion is legally restricted or inaccessible.
In 2018, I had the great privilege of being asked to give the Mahmoud Fathalla Lecture at the FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics. To honor Fathalla’s legacy of championing women’s rights, my lecture centered on another of his famous statements: that the ultimate prescription for women is power.
Indeed, Fathalla saw firsthand throughout his career that women in so many places around the world lack the power to make their own reproductive health decisions—and consequently, cannot determine their own futures. I called on the audience of health-care providers that day to recognize their own power to be bold advocates for reproductive health and rights—including abortion.
And today, I echo the same call. Be an unwavering champion for women’s health and rights, in honor of Dr. Fathalla.