Women’s Right to Life

  • Date / 15 June 2010

In a statement to the Human Rights Council this morning, 15 June 2010, IHEU Main Representative, Roy Brown, highlighted the vital need to recognize the reproductive rights of women. Acknowledging the importance of better reproductive health care, Brown went on to emphasize that “women also desperately need reproductive rights: the information, the means, and the freedom to decide whether and when to become pregnant” in order to reduce the “appalling toll of maternal mortality”.

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 14th Session (31 May – 18 June 2010)
Speaker: IHEU Representative, Roy W Brown: Tuesday 15 June 2010
Item 8: Integrating the Human Rights of Women throughout the UN System

Women’s Right to Life

Mr President,

When we look at progress made since the Vienna DPA [Vienna Declaration and Program of Action] we see one area where far too little progress has been made: the human rights of women, and especially the right to life.

For example, the international community has for decades had available all of the information it needs to reduce the appalling toll of maternal mortality. 80% of pregnancy related deaths happen just before, during or just after the moment of childbirth. Women need [better ante-natal care, they need trained birth attendants and access to professional medical care when things go wrong; they need] better reproductive health care. But they also need reproductive rights.

World health surveys as long as 20 years ago demonstrated that women across the developing world would on average, rather have had two fewer children than they had actually borne.

So while better reproductive health care is part of the solution, Mr President, women also desperately need reproductive rights: the information, the means, and the freedom to decide whether and when to become pregnant.

Yet despite our knowledge, the obstacles to women’s choices remain formidable. Cultural and religious tradition is of course part of the problem, but so too are the misguided attitudes on the part of many governments, States who are unwilling to provide contraceptives as a necessary part of the health-care package, politicians who are so besotted by the issue of abortion that they even call modern contraceptives “baby pesticides”, and religious leaders who condemn the use of contraceptives under any circumstances, even lying about the efficacy of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

These people have placed their views of morality above their concern for the lives of women.

Mr President, we need national leaders prepared to ignore bigotry and accept their responsibility for women’s lives. We urge all States to make women’s reproductive health and rights their top priority.

Thank you sir.

Note: The words in [square brackets could not be spoken in the two minutes available]

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