Thursday 22 March 2012

African mothers want healthcare not abortion, international conference hears

Mothers in Africa want maternal healthcare, not abortion, an international conference in central London has heard.

The "Abortion or maternal health? What should the UK be funding in developing countries?" conference, held by SPUC on Tuesday, heard from an international line-up of experts in maternal healthcare, law and research. The conference was attended by medical professionals, bioethicists, students and religious representatives from many countries.

Prof. Robert Walley
Professor Robert Walley, a leading obstetrician and founder of MaterCare International, told the conference that: "In the countries in which I work, one in seven mothers will die due to lack of medical equipment...It is ridiculous to supply women with abortion and condoms when they need access to emergency obstetrical care...Abortion is a sin of commission, but failing to provide mothers with obstetrical care is a sin of omission", he said. "We are here to uphold women's dignity".

Professor Walley described obstetrics as the most privileged of professions. The advent of mass abortion and contraception in the 1970s led to obstetricians who wouldn't support abortion being forced out of the profession. "Because I was against abortion, I was told to change speciality or leave", said Professor Walley. "Medics must live according to their consciences, which tells them not to perform abortions. Medics are trained to save life not destroy it." Professor Walley said tha people in the developing world are getting angry at Western pro-abortion bullying. "The West has destroyed marriage and the family and is now imposing its decadence on the conservative developing world", he said.

MaterCare International's Charter of Maternal Rights secures both maternal health and the welcome gift of children. Since 2005 MaterCare International has run a cutting-edge maternal health project in Kenya, bringing healthcare and hope to rural mothers. MaterCare International also organises workshops with multi-disciplinary speakers to educate medics in ethics. The late Pope John Paul II gave direct support and inspiration to MaterCare International and Catholic obstetricians everywhere. Professor Walley added that most Catholic priests are faithful to the pro-life cause but need support.

Dr Roger Kiska
Dr Roger Kiska, from Vienna, senior legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), told the conference that no obligation exists on states to legalise abortion in international law. Not a single United Nations (UN) treaty mentions abortion, let alone a right to abortion. No party to an international treaty would have intended abortion when signing a treaty, he said. Also, there is no norm regarding abortion in customary international law. Any trend in national laws to allow abortion does not create any obligation to allow abortion, Dr Kiska said.

Many articles of international conventions actually protect the right to life of unborn children. For example, it is illegal under international law to execute pregnant women. A European Court of Justice judgment on patent law held that human life begins at conception, said Dr Kiska. There is an international consensus that abortion is not a freedom but something that should be reduced.

John Smeaton
However, international conventions and treaties are being re-interpreted via manipulation of officials by pro-abortion lobbyists, said Dr Kiska. Although the European Union (EU) has no competency over abortion, non-binding resolutions by the European Parliament and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe assert that European states should allow abortion on demand.

Dr Kiska concluded his address by saying: "I'm very proud to work with SPUC" and praising SPUC's work defending the right to life in international law. John Smeaton, SPUC director, said that the Holy See is deeply appreciative of SPUC's support by way of pro-life lobbying at the United Nations (UN).

Terry Brown
Conference delegates networked over lunch and afterwards shared information on SPUC's resources, initiatives and partners. Terry Brown of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) told the conference how the SVP works to support poor women in Sudan and globally. Being pro-life and being pro-woman automatically go together. Mr Brown asked delegates to pray for the work of both the SVP and SPUC.

Dr Obielumani Ideh, obstetrician and researcher from Nigeria, shared heartbreaking stories of the massive gap in healthcare between the UK and Africa. Women in Nigeria are forced to give birth in appalling conditions. Medical and cultural factors male Nigerian women very wary of surgery such as caesarean section delivery.

Dr Obi Ideh (2nd from left)
In Nigeria, illegal abortions are being done under the euphemism of 'post-abortion care', said Dr Ideh. Abortion groups are selling manual vacuum aspirators (MVAs) which are being used to perform illegal abortions. Massive government funding of the abortion group IPAS in Nigeria adds to a dramatic shortfall in real healthcare. Dr Ideh said that the problem of maternal mortality arises mainly because governments fail to provide the appropriate resources and infrastructure.

The international 'Safe Motherhood Initiative' soon turned into the abortion lobbying group 'Women Deliver', said Dr Ideh. Professor Walley told the conference that 'Women Deliver' have made a policy decision not to use word 'mother'. Dr Ideh said that community-based midwifery needs to be spread in the developing world, and that pro-lifers are called to share the pro-life message within their own families, schools and local communities.

Youth enjoying the conference
Fiorella Nash MA (Cantab.), a mother of three children and a researcher on maternal mortality for SPUC, said that high maternal mortality in the developing world is a scandal. Better healthcare not abortion is the solution. Access to abortion is being funded and promoted at the expense of urgent women's healthcare needs, said Mrs Nash. Sadly, even Britain's CAFOD (Catholic Agency For Overseas Development) had reacted angrily when SPUC pointed out how the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would be used to further the abortion agenda.

Pro-abortion groups often inflate or fabricate illegal abortion figures in developing countries. Studies claiming high illegal abortion rates often lump together induced and spontaneous abortion, and confuse 'safe' with 'legal' abortion. Mrs Nash said that government and parliamentary reports are also often skewed by an obsession with promoting abortion. Also, Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) has failed to provide detailed figures on how it's bankrolling abortion overseas.
Eve Farren

There is a massive gap between poor rural women dying in huts in the developing world and the pro-abortion elite in carpeted boardrooms of world capitals. The real reason for world poverty is corrupt leaders, not a lack of birth control, concluded Mrs Nash.

There was a range of excellent questions and contributions from delegates. Eve Farren of Bristol Students for Life said there was a big rise in pro-life student activism in the UK.

Robin Haig, SPUC's chairman, concluded the conference by calling on delegates to help restore the dignity of motherhood and ensure that every childbirth is a joyful occasion.
Robin Haig

An album of photographs from the conference can be viewed at

SPUC has produced an in-depth briefing on maternal mortality.

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