WHA Day 3: Safe abortions and reproductive rights

Most days at the WHA start around 8 o’clock in the morning with a meeting with the whole delegation, and end at earliset around 12 o’clock with another meeting with the whole delegation. As did today.

After the morning meeting, us and Usman finalized our plans for side event on “How to accelerate the attainment of MDG5: new guidelines for implementation of sexual and reproductive health and rights” organized by HRP (the Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction) and the dutch delegation. Followed by some listening in to Committee A where nutrition was discussed.

The side event turned out to be a great succes. The speakers all held engaging and interesting speaches, however two of the speeches took a more personal approach. Dr Mbizvo from HRP opened up with a speech were he told the story about how he had met a distressed girl in the hospital corridor worried for her sister who was undergoing surgery after an unsafe abortion. Later he found out that she had died, and that she had never been pregnant, just had had an delayed period, an effect of lack of knowledge and unsafe abortions. Professor Faundes from FIGO told the story about how he as a junior doctor had been tasked to perform curettage (an old fashioned method on abortion) on women. The patients weren’t given anaestethics and when he inquired why the answer was that they were criminals and were to be punished.

The list of speakers all had powerful facts and stories to share with the audience. Despite these depressing highlights there was much optimism in the room. Everyone there agreed that this is a question of health not on ethics. The rates of abortion are consistent across all nations, but due to variation in access some countries have much higher rates of unsafe abortions and therefore more complications. 98% of the unsafe abortions are performed within the developing world.

Apart from presenting the new guidelines on abortion, HRP were also celebrating their 40th anniversary. IFMSA got the chance both to congratulate them on both, and also emphasize the importance of involving youth in the process as well as the importance of proper guidelines for us as future physicians to be able to provide access to sexual health services to our patients without fear of losing their jobs or of persecution.

The side event also gave IFMSA the opportunity to meet several externals that might be of interest for us in the future.

The day continued with another interesting side event about the private health sector were the importance of including it in discussions for global health was lifted, since the private health sector is a continuosly growing part of the health system.

Back at the hotel the day finished with a recap with the rest of the delegation, sharing and caring. Well done everyone!

Kelly Thompson (AMSA-Australia) and Désirée Lichtenstein (IFMSA-Sweden)

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