The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights protects the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, with a specific reference to pregnancy
- As part of the right to health, the Treaty calls on States Parties to take steps to ensure "the provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child" – Article 12.2(a)
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women calls on States Parties to provide pre-natal and obstetric care
- The Treaty states that, "States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation." – Article 12.2
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlights the importance of special care for mothers
- "Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance." – Article 25.2
The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development sets forth the goal of significantly reducing maternal mortality by 2015
- "Countries should strive to effect significant reductions in maternal mortality by the year 2015: a reduction in maternal mortality by one half of the 1990 levels by the year 2000 and a further one half by 2015." - Paragraph 8.21
The Beijing Platform for Action reaffirms the importance of the 2015 maternal mortality goal
- "Strengthen and reorient health services, particularly primary health care, in order to ensure universal access to quality health services for women and girls; reduce ill health and maternal morbidity and achieve world wide the agreed-upon goal of reducing maternal mortality by at least 50 per cent of the 1990 levels by the year 2000 and a further one half by the year 2015; ensure that the necessary services are available at each level of the health system and make reproductive health care accessible, through the primary health-care system, to all individuals of appropriate ages as soon as possible and no later than the year 2015" – Paragraph 106(i)
Goal 5 of the Millennium Development Goals is to "improve maternal health"
- "Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio" – Target 5A of the Millennium Development Goals
The upcoming Sustainable Development Goals are expected to continue this work
EXAMPLES OF SUCCESS
Countries dramatically can improve maternal health by directly tackling the four causes of maternal mortality, which are:
- Severe bleeding
- Obstructed labor
- High blood pressure during pregnancy
Ireland has banned almost all abortion since 1983, and since then has become an international model of natal care
- A 15-year old female in Ireland has the lowest lifetime risk of dying from complications related to pregnancy/childbirth (1 in 48,000) in the world (UNFPA)
- Richly documented evidence shows that, in an emergency, Irish doctors will go to virtually any length to save the life of both mother and baby
Chile makes the case for educating women as the key to reducing maternal mortality
- The prohibition of abortion in Chile in 1989 has led to a steep decline (69.2%) in the number of maternal deaths, and Chile is now a leader in maternal health in the Western Hemisphere, along with Canada and the US (World Bank).
- A 50-year analysis of maternity data from Chile reveals that the educational level of women is the single most important factor in reducing mortality rates among mothers.
ACTION POINTS FOR UN DELEGATES
- Ensure that UN documents accurately reference authentic solutions to maternal mortality
Remove language that links abortion to improving maternal health
- Provision of pre and post natal care
- Increased number of skilled birth attendants
- Improved health care infrastructure, transportation, and access to birthing facilities
- Higher levels of education for women
- Some UN Agencies and NGOs consider abortion a cause of maternal mortality. Although women can die due to an abortion, it cannot be considered a cause of maternal mortality because it is an elective procedure and does not explain why women die in childbirth.
- It is imperative to keep the focus on the four causes that constitute the majority of maternal deaths.
- Example from a proposed language amendment for the First session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, Montevideo 12 – 15 August 2013
"Concerned at the high rates of maternal mortality, due largely to difficulties in obtaining access to proper sexual health and reproductive health services or to unsafe abortions, and aware that some experiences in the region have demonstrated that the penalization of abortion leads to higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity and does not reduce the number of abortions, and that this holds the region back in its efforts to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals"
"due largely to the lack of skilled birth attendants, adequate parental and post-natal care, and access to sanitary and well-equipped birthing facilities"