In a speech to the Human Rights Council on 16 June on behalf of IHEU, Professor Anthony Grayling called upon the international community to give far greater attention to the 1,500 maternity-related deaths that occur every day – the vast majority of the preventable. “We believe that wider recognition that this is indeed a human rights issue will provide additional momentum to efforts to reduce this appalling death toll.” (Pictures added.)
Professor Grayling’s intervention was made during the debate at the 11th Session of the Human Rights Council on the 1994 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action which called for “human rights for all” including the integration of the human rights of women throughout the United Nations System. The full text of Prof. Grayling’s speech is given below.
International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 11th Session (2 – 19 June 2009)
Speaker: IHEU Representative, Anthony Grayling: Tuesday 16 June 2009
Item 8: Integrating the Human Rights of Women throughout the UN System
Preventable maternal mortality
Thank you, Mr President
[In the context of integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system,] we would like to draw the attention of the Council to the key contribution made by women’s reproductive health to the full enjoyment of their human rights [and to the health and well-being of their families and their entire communities.]
The importance of sexual and reproductive health is recognised in MDG 5 where the target is to reduce maternal mortality by 75% between 1990 and 2015, and to provide universal access to reproductive health. 
The essential requirement to bring this about is for women to have control of their own fertility – and this requires information about and access to affordable and effective methods of family planning.
But, Mr President, it also requires the support and understanding of men. Central therefore to the improvement of women’s health and rights is the education and understanding of their menfolk:
Of all the Millennium Development Goals, it is MDG 5 that appears to be furthest from achievement; almost no progress has been made in the past 10 years towards this goal. The time has surely come for the international community to give far greater attention to the 1500 maternal deaths that occur every day.
We therefore welcome the initiative of the delegation of New Zealand to introduce a resolution examining the human rights aspects of maternal mortality. We believe that wider recognition that this is indeed a human rights issue will provide additional momentum to efforts to reduce this appalling death toll.
We urge all members of the Council to support the resolution.
Thank you, Sir.
[The portions in square brackets form part of the statement but were not pronounced due to the limited time allowed to NGO speakers.]