UK: MP Group Calls for Increased Funding and Access to Abortion Globally
Friday, April 6, 2018

The U.K. All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Population, Development and Reproductive Health called on the U.K. government for increased funding of and access to abortion in developing countries and in the U.K. in a new ‘report’. The ‘report’–WHO DECIDES? We trust women- Abortion in the developing world and the U.K.— was created from ‘expert testimony’ given by abortion industry and abortion advocacy giants including International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Marie Stopes International (MSI), Ipas, Center for Reproductive Rights, International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, Doctors for a Woman’s Choice on Abortion (DWCA), SheDecides, and Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

The report is critical of President Trump’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy and calls for the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) “to increase investment in the full range of integrated SRHR services, including safe abortion care” and “funding for family planning and the wider sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda to 10% of official development assistance and 10% of national development budgets.”

A senior policy advisor for Ipas stated in her testimony before the group, “It is no longer politically or morally acceptable for governments or international bodies to use arguments of culture or religion to avoid creating a supportive policy and legal framework for safe abortion that would eliminate a major cause of maternal death and injury.”

The hearing report by the parliamentary group—not a legislative committee— makes 10 recommendations for U.K. action in developing countries and 12 recommendations for change in the U.K. Internationally, it seeks increased support by DFID to change abortion laws globally including broadening laws to “permit community and primary care health workers, pharmacists, nurses and midwives to provide abortion” and expand use of abortion-inducing drugs around the world.  The U.K. is urged to use its “voice to reinforce the importance and centrality of abortion to women’s human rights and equality. Work should go toward protecting abortion as a necessary health service, which is part of a continuum of services. This will make it more difficult to marginalise safe abortion care from the rest of family planning and SRH.” Conflict situations and humanitarian settings are mentioned as particularly ‘needing’ access to abortion.

Globally, the group seeks to ensure that “adolescent girls and young women have access to youth-friendly and nonjudgmental sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion care” and access to comprehensive sexuality education “through in-school and out-of-school programmes for adolescents that promote comprehensive sexuality education including information on contraception and abortion”.

In the UK, the group’s wish list includes decriminalizing abortion completely, permitting self-induced abortion via medication at home, and allowing “primary care workers such as nurses and midwives to manage both surgical and medical abortion in the first trimester.”

It urges the building of coalitions in Northern Ireland to “decriminalise abortion in NI – using the momentum of the possible up and coming changes in the Republic of Ireland.”

The report credits pro-life activity as creating an “obstacle” to abortion along with religion, abortion ‘stigma’, lack of access, and lack of information and trained personnel.

Promotion of access to abortion-inducing drugs for so-called “medical abortion (MA)” in developing countries and in the UK dominates the report, especially in the section entitled Future of Abortion Self-Uses: The Wave of the Future.

In regards to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) it states that they “do not mention abortion explicitly, as it is only part of the package of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in countries where it is not legally restricted”. Disappointment is expressed that “abortion services can still be separated or omitted from the rest of SRH services by some governments and donors”. The MPs’ opinion is expressed that “in order to be able to fulfil the 2030 SDGs, governments and civil society must act to reform laws that criminalise abortion or stop women from acting on their reproductive rights.”

The report declares, “The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) remains the gold standard on setting and defining SRH policy. The ICPD Programme of Action agrees that where abortion is legal, it should be safely accessible at the primary level.”

Values and beliefs in the sanctity of life held by health care providers are rejected as the report claims: “Religious beliefs have no place in evidence-based healthcare.”

Conscientious objection (CO) is disparaged: “CO has been used worldwide by healthcare providers as an excuse to shirk their duties to care for their patients. Rather than coming from a deep moral position, it is often noted to be an excuse to avoid a necessary task. The imposition of a doctor’s religious beliefs on a vulnerable patient, is a way to harm women and CO nearly always involves services needed by women (contraception and abortion).”

The group expresses concern about the influence of religion and faith-based institutions, “There is more fundamentalism in all religions currently, this is not only Catholics, as many fundamentalists oppose abortion. Recall that many hospitals — including training hospitals — are run by religious institutions in developing countries. They see that their providers receive no information on family planning or abortion.”

The report appears to be a tool to pressure the U.K. government to contribute to the ‘She Decides’ abortion fund set-up to counter U.S. pro-life foreign policy. The pro-life actions of U.S. lawmakers are criticized as the group urges support for the ‘She Decides’. It declares, “It is important that other donors take proactive measures to see that US anti-choice politicians do not dictate the care that is available to women and girls world-wide. One such action is the ‘She Decides’ initiative, begun by a group of European donors including the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark. The importance of continued U.K. leadership in international global abortion cannot be under-emphasised.”

It is reported that the U.K. has so far failed to contribute to the pro-abortion fund.

When asked why not, pro-abortion Labour MP Gareth Thomas said he suspected “the desire to not offend the United States” was behind the decision and he called on pro-abortion activists to write to their MPs in order to “put pressure” on the new secretary of state for development, Penny Mordaunt, to take up the cause.