The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals aim to end poverty by 2015. Two of its many concerns are reproductive health, and gender equality. A report published this year measures the progress made in these sectors, and outlines the steps that need to be taken in order to reach the goal by 2015.
Unfortunately, progression in the field of maternal health has been sluggish all around the world. There are remarkable improvements since 1990, but maternal mortality rates are higher than targeted rates for 2012.
Though the numbers show better progress in Asia than Africa, rates are still as high as 220 maternal deaths for every 100 000 live births in Southern Asia, 150 in South-Eastern Asia, and 37 in Eastern Asia. Teenage pregnancies are also still high in Southern Asia, and South-Eastern Asia.
Unfortunately this does not account for maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions. WHO estimates show that 20 million women have unsafe abortions every year, and if deaths due to these are included, maternal mortality rates could be higher than the presented global estimates.
The exclusion is not wholly unexpected given that safe abortion was omitted in the initial agenda, and even in the final outcome. But it creates a void in data on maternal deaths and endangers the life of young girls and women. The lack of indicators and thus the need to measure also allows governments to remain passive about budgeting and implementation of safe abortion services.
The MDGs aim at reducing poverty, and it has been argued to death that this goal cannot be achieved without effective family planning measures. Women around the world can contribute better to the world economy if they are allowed to take charge of their reproductive lives, and permitted to make decisions on the size of their families. While access to contraception plays a very important role in such empowerment, it cannot bring effective change alone. All contraceptive methods have an inherent failure rate and access to safe abortions needs to be available along with it.
The lack of abortion care paints a bleak picture for women globally. But consciously including abortions into all discussions on human rights and monitoring the rates of deaths caused by unsafe abortions can bring about a huge and much needed change.
To read the entire MDG 2012 report click here.