Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Report on World Health Assembly 2010

The 63rd World Health Assembly (WHA) held in Geneva Switzerland from May 17 – 22 focused primarily on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) which were agreed in the year 2000 and which will be reviewed at a special United Nations session in New York in September.

The Assembly, which is the governing body of the World Health Oraganziton (WHO), composed of Health Ministers and Delegates from 188 countries, focused in particular on Goals 4,5 and 6. Goals 4 and 5 call for accomplishment of substantial reductions in both Maternal and child mortality by 2015 and goal 6 relates to combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases..

The background to this meeting relates to the fact that in this 10th year after agreement of the MDG’s and with only 5 years to go in order to meet the targets set out at the time, insufficient progress has been made with the result that the targets cannot be realized without accelerated programmes.

A series of three major technical briefings on progress, challenges that remain and strategies to achieve the MDG’s were held as side events. Although the speakers continued to promote decreasing the number of children women deliver as a means to decrease maternal mortality, the focus of the session was actually mainly on known and effective means of decreasing maternal mortality, not the promotion of legalization of abortion.

Three of the 10, resolutions approved by the assembly on a variety of health related issues, such as viral hepatitis, nutrition, and blood safety, included one on “Monitoring of the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development goals,” one on “Birth defects,” and one on the “WHO HIV/AIDS Strategy for 2011- 2015”

Unfortunately, the Health Ministers, a large percentage of whom come from pro-life countries, unfamiliar with implications and nuances of certain UN language related to the term “reproductive health,” accepted the resolutions on Monitoring the MDG’s and on “Birth Defects” with the inclusion of references to reproductive health “services” which can be interpreted to include abortion. Member UN nations in other venues have come to accept that “reproductive health” without the term “services” does not include abortion and do not accept “services” in relation to reproductive health.

They also accepted problematic references buried in the WHA Executive Board Reports or documents referenced in the.resolutions.

The resolution on birth defects for example references a WHA Executive Board Report (EB 126/10) on which the resolution is based which, among other things, calls for prenatal screening and diagnosis for birth defects and selective termination of pregnancy.

The Resolution on HIV/Aids references a report: “UN AIDS Outcome Framework” (2009-2011) which includes the term “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” which has never been defined in any UN negotiated document.

The resolution on the Monitoring of the MDG’s, welcomes a WHO report
“Women and health: today’s evidence tomorrow’s agenda.” (Geneva, World Health Organization, 2009), with questionable statistics and inaccurate unsubstantiated claims relating to maternal mortality and abortion.

The truth is, the lack of and unavailability of modern medicine and quality health care, not the prohibition of abortion, results in high maternal mortality. Legalizing abortions actually leads to more abortions—and in the developing world where maternal health care is poor, this would increase the number of women who die or are harmed by abortion. The solution to illegal abortions and high maternal mortality does not lie in legalizing abortion but in the provision of adequate education and care, including the provision of universal pre and post-natal care, emergency obstetric care, a clean blood supply, ensuring a clean water supply, adequate supplies of antibiotics and other vital medicines, and good nutrition. Statistics confirm that these measures save women's lives -- not the legalization, of abortion.