The core purpose of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is to improve women’s health and the practice of obstetrics and gynaecology worldwide. We are extremely concerned at the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which bans programmes that receive US government funding from offering or providing information about abortions.
Access to abortion, contraception and reproductive health services saves women’s lives, thereby improving the life chances and wellbeing of their children and families as well as society as a whole. This is recognised within UN Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5, which stress the importance of sexual and reproductive health services in reducing maternal mortality and achieving gender equality. Withdrawing funding from these programmes will have a direct impact on the lives, health and wellbeing of the girls and women for whom our global membership provide care, and also on their wider families and societies.
The RCOG supports the rights of women and girls across the world to access safe, high-quality family planning, contraception, abortion and post-abortion services, always working within the local legal framework and respecting the diversity of personal opinion among our members and society. We are committed to working in partnership with like-minded organisations in the UK and worldwide to educate, train and support healthcare professionals to ensure a sustainable workforce that provides women with safe, high-quality, compassionate care.
Over 20 million women and girls undergo an unsafe abortion every year resulting in the death of 47,000 women and girls from related complications.Unsafe abortion is one of the five main causes of maternal mortality worldwide, accounting for 13% of maternal deaths.1
Placing restrictions on access to safe, legal abortion care has an impact on maternal mortality. The average unsafe abortion rate in countries with restrictive abortion policies is more than four times higher than in countries with less restrictive policies and the average maternal mortality rate is three times higher. There is also an impact on the birth rate among adolescent girls, which is around three times higher in countries with restrictive abortion policies.2
When a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth, there are consequences for her family and the wider society. Any surviving children tend to leave school and female children are more likely to marry and have children at a young age. This loss of education together with early marriage and child-bearing perpetuates the cycle of poverty for the next generation. In addition, maternal mortality is closely linked to child mortality: newborn babies whose mothers die in childbirth are far less likely to reach their first birthday. Finally, her family may experience financial difficulties due to the loss of the mother’s income. All of these tragedies have an impact on economic growth: maternal and newborn deaths cost the world an estimated $15bn in lost productivity each year.3,4
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in September 2015. The 17 goals set targets for the next 15 years that aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, supporting sustainable development. SDG 3, ‘Good health and wellbeing’, includes targets for the reduction of maternal, child and newborn mortality, while SDG 5, ‘Gender equality’, includes targets to reduce early marriage and childbearing at a young age. Both SDGs include targets for universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including family planning. More information about the SDGs is available on the UN website at http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/.
- World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/unsafe_abortion/magnitude/en/
- UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Abortion Policies and Reproductive Health Around the World. 2014: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/policy/AbortionPoliciesReproductiveHealth.pdf
- Belizan J, Miller S (eds). True costs of maternal death. Reproductive Health 2015 12(Suppl 1).
- USAID, 2001. USAID Congressional Budget Justification FY2002: program, performance and prospects – the global health pillar. United States Agency for International Development: Washington, DC.
About the RCOG
The RCOG works to improve health care for women everywhere, by setting standards for clinical practice, providing doctors with training and lifelong learning, and advocating for women’s health care worldwide. We have over 14,000 members worldwide in more than 100 different countries. Forty-seven per cent of our members are based outside the British Isles.