Tuesday, July 20, 2010

At African Union Summit, mothers and children should be focus

The following op-ed by Scott Fischbach, MCCL GO president, is being distributed in Africa.

As the 15th African Union Summit gets underway in Kampala, Uganda this week, it is critical for leaders to remain focused on the theme of the Summit: Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa. This week's meetings can bear much fruit for the women and children of Africa as long as the proceedings do not get side-tracked into a push for legalized abortion.

Some prior Continental meetings have been hijacked by those who have an agenda to legalize abortion throughout Africa. These calls for outright legalized abortion, coming via documents like CARMMA or MPOA, ought to be resoundingly rejected by African leaders. References to abortion and "reproductive health services" ought to be stripped from all Summit documents, and the focus should remain on the well-being of the women and children in the Union.

Leading experts in the field of maternal mortality are fast coming to the same conclusion: adequate health care, not legalized abortion, will reduce the incidence of maternal mortality. Globally, countries with some of the lowest maternal death rates also do not have legalized abortion -- countries like Malta, Nicaragua, Poland and Ireland. Interestingly, in New York City, New York, USA, the maternal mortality rates are now increasing, even though abortion has been legal and easily available with more than 120,000 abortions per year there since 1970.

The people of Africa are its greatest resource. The children of Africa are its greatest hope. This historic Summit ought to be a time to harmonize positive efforts to lift all mothers and babies in life.

Recent international activity on issues relating to maternal mortality and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations have steered clear of the abortion issue. The G 8 meeting in Canada as well as the G 20 meeting both specifically did not take any action or make any statements regarding abortion while promising billions in U.S. dollars to aid Africa. Melinda Gates from the Gates Foundation promised an additional $1.5 billion in aid on maternal mortality, and when asked about abortion she stated very emphatically that she would not get into the matter and the funds would not be used to pay for abortions.

Clean water, clean blood supplies, trained health care workers, emergency obstetric care and adequate health care facilities will dramatically reduce maternal mortality rates in Africa. Legalizing abortion will not. It will only increase the number of abortions and maternal deaths. Leaders of the AU should remain focused this week on life-affirming results for the women and children of Africa.

Scott Fischbach is the Executive Director of MCCL Global Outreach, a life-affirming international outreach program based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. He also serves as an NGO representative of the National Right to Life Educational Trust.