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World leaders in obstetrics and gynaecology put women’s healthcare rights at the forefront of international congress in Cape Town

News 8 March 2017

Women’s right to receive safe and timely healthcare will be the focus of the 2017 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) World Congress in Cape Town from 20-22 March.

More than 2,000 delegates from 77 countries are expected to attend the three day event, which is one of the largest of its kind in the world. The Congress will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and will give attendees the chance to hear from leading O&G experts about the latest developments in the field and how the College is working to improve women’s health care globally.

More than 155 internationally renowned experts will present at the event including Professor Lesley Regan, who will address the Congress for the first time as President of the RCOG. Her presentation on Abortion care – bridging the gap between policy and reality, and a plenary on Changing hearts and minds: The learning curve, are expected to receive international attention.

Access to abortion and family planning will also be debated at a high level panel discussion featuring Profession Regan, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin, President of Catholics for Choice, Jon O'Brien, and a Clinical Nurse Practitioner in South Africa, Judiac Ranape. Professor Regan will also give an update on the RCOG’s Leading Safe Choices initiative; a programme aimed to strengthen the competence and raise the standing of family planning and abortion care professionals in South Africa and Tanzania.

The RCOG is committed to improving women’s healthcare globally by supporting the 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. Recently the College expressed concern over the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which bans programmes that receive US government funding from offering or providing information about abortions. Withdrawing this funding will have a direct impact on the lives, health and wellbeing of girls and women, and also on their wider families and societies.

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the RCOG said:

“We support the rights of women and girls across the world to access safe, high quality family planning, contraception, abortion and post-abortion care. These types of services save women’s lives.

“While the scale and barriers to effective change vary in different places around the world, problems facing women in developing countries are no different to those in the UK.

“Women’s human rights need to be addressed globally in order to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. A human rights approach to women’s health care is essential.

“Health care professionals have an important role to play in tackling gender inequalities, as they are often the first and only point of contact for women to reach out to. The breadth of the Congress programme demonstrates the many opportunities clinicians have to engage with women across their life-course.”

The cutting edge scientific programme of daily plenary sessions and simultaneous lectures will also feature presentations from experts including:

  • Atul Gawande – The checklist effect: From surgery to childbirth
  • Ariadne Labs – The impact of the BetterBirth trial on birth practices, maternal mortality and morbidity, and newborn mortality
  • Mitchell Besser’s – Mothers-to-mothers to be: How we changed the impact of HIV on African women and children
  • Kerry Louw – Substance abuse in pregnancy: The medical challenge
  • Rob Norman – Obesity and under nutrition in reproduction
  • Roger Lobo – Menopause Hormone Therpy – The window of opportunity
  • Michael Pepper – Gender and sexual diversity
  • Naeemah Abrahams – Gender-based violence: Is there light at the end of the tunnel
  • Josephine Kulea, Janice Rymer and Seynabou Tall – FGM: Community advocacy and mandatory reporting – conversation about different approaches to the same problem
  • Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of kenya

The programme will also include live streaming of a laparoscopic radical hysterectomy for cervical cancer from the Groote Schuur Hospital, and pre-Congress workshops on fistula, colposcopy, polycystic ovary syndrome, postpartum haemorrhage, and obstetric anal sphincter injury.


For more information or a copy of the Congress programme, please visit

International media inquiries:
Eclipse Public Relations – Kirsten Smith
082 820 3920 /

UK media inquiries:
RCOG – Tara Meakins
0207 772 6357 / 07715 677 224 /

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.