International Conference on Family Planning 2009

Family Planning: Research and Best Practices

Baroness Tonge Calls for Action

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Baroness Jenny Tonge, a member of the U.K. House of Lords, opened the ICFP conference on Tuesday with a global call to action to reduce maternal mortality and suffering related to childbirth.

While a half million women die every year in childbirth, complications from childbirth—such as obstetric fistula, prolapsed uterus, anemia, mental health disorders and others—can be so debilitating for some women that they might be better off dead, she said.

“With millions and billions of people, maybe half a million’s neither here nor there. But if you add in women whose lives are ruined and permanently disabled, we have a much greater number,” said Baroness Tonge, a medical doctor and advocate for women’s rights. “They might be better off dead.”

Tonge called for more quantifiable data on the suffering from maternal morbidity. She called for action as well, especially toward insisting that resources toward maternal health be increased. “Are we just going to meet?” she asked, in her call for action.

“We must change our laws to prevent child marriage,” she said. “We must decriminalize abortion. We have got to stop female genital mutilation. And yes, I’m going to say it, we have to stop the Roman Catholic Church interfering in women’s health the way that they do.”

In conclusion, Tonge said, “Let’s resolve here to put an end to these obscenities.”

Written by C. Grillo | JHSPH

November 17, 2009 at 7:17 pm

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