Reproductive Health Groups Around the World Demand Governments Keep 15-Year Promise to Address Women’s Reproductive Rights

(PRESS RELEASE) Today, activists representing more than 400 sexual and reproductive health groups from 131 countries called on national governments around the world to establish and implement concrete and fully-funded actions in order to fulfill their 15 years of promises about investing in equality, human rights and social and economic development for women and girls.

The call to action concludes a three-day conference in Berlin where the groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, met to review global progress in meeting sexual and reproductive health and rights goals set out in the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994. In the Programme of Action, 179 governments, including the United States, recognized that comprehensive sexual and reproductive rights are human rights and that they are essential for women's empowerment, as well as international development. The governments also committed to ensuring every woman's access to reproductive health services, including family planning, healthcare for pregnant women, sex education, and post-abortion care services. The General Assembly is set to observe the ICPD's 15th anniversary on October 12, 2009.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, participated in the conference and issued this statement:

"Fifteen years ago, world leaders recognized that reproductive rights are human rights and promised to take real steps to address the reproductive health needs of women. Some progress has certainly been made. Today, more countries include access to reproductive healthcare and the reduction of maternal mortality in their national policy agendas. A number of countries, including some of those that had the most restrictive laws in 1994, have eased restrictions on access to abortion. And there is growing recognition among the United Nations treaty monitoring bodies that a woman's right to reproductive health is firmly rooted in international human rights treaties.

"Still-progress has been slow. Women around the world are robbed daily of their ability to make healthy decisions about their reproductive lives and to obtain safe reproductive services. Unacceptable numbers still die during childbirth and pregnancy-although almost all of these deaths are preventable. Unsafe abortion kills nearly 70,000 women every year-even in countries where the medical service is legal. And millions of people have no access to contraception-exposing countless numbers to disease and driving already struggling families further into poverty.

"ICPD's key priorities are premised upon fundamental human rights and are thus not up for negotiation. Governments must be held accountable. Governments made a promise to women around the world -- it's past time that they kept it.

"The Center calls on governments worldwide to take the following steps as part of their efforts to fulfill their commitments made in Cairo and to ensure women the full enjoyment of their reproductive rights:

  • Take action to strengthen legal norms and accountability mechanisms that protect women's reproductive rights.
  • Repeal discriminatory laws that interfere with women's reproductive rights, including those that criminalize health care that only women need.
  • Bring national laws addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights in line with evolving international standards and norms.
  • Ratify international human rights treaties that promote and safeguard women's sexual and reproductive health
  • Report to treaty monitoring bodies such as the U.N. Human Rights Committee regarding compliance with human rights obligations, specifically addressing the promotion and protection of women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, including by providing disaggregated data and information on the impact of the policies and programs developed.