A year and a half after the “Global ‘Safe Abortion’” conference took place in London, abortion advocate Marie Stopes International and Ipas have just released the conference’s report, detailing the abortion movement’s worldwide strategy.

While organizers claimed the primary objective of the conference was to “save women’s lives and reduce maternal mortality,” the report reveals participants prioritized a so-called “right” to “safe and legal abortion” above all else – dismissing any evidence of its harmful effects on women and even denying the right of conscientious medical professionals to object to participating in abortions.

The 800 conference participants, culled from the world’s major abortion advocacy groups, crafted and signed the “Global Call to Action for Women’s Access to Safe Abortion,” demanding that women everywhere “have full access to legal, voluntary, safe and affordable abortions as part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.”  The Call to Action also demanded governments reform their laws and policies “at all levels” to ensure “rights to contraception and safe abortion” and that medical schools provide “physicians, nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers” with abortion training.

Presenters lamented that even where abortion is legal, there are technical and policy barriers to contend with, such as shortages of trained, authorized healthcare personnel, particularly in rural areas. Strategies to address this lack of access to abortion focused on training non-physician “mid-level providers,” such as nurses and midwives, and promoting “medication abortion” to “facilitate (the) expulsion of uterine contents,” as well as undermining conscience protections relied on by physicians, nurses and other health care workers opposed to taking unborn life.

Advocates were encouraged to press for greater liberalization where abortion is permitted “to preserve the woman’s health” by urging abortionists to argue that abortion is necessary to achieve the World Health Organization’s definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Apart from pushing for legalization, conference participants were urged to argue for the broadest interpretation of existing laws and policies and attack “other medically unnecessary administrative constraints that hinder access,” such as requirements for spousal and parental consent and multiple physician authorizations. They were also urged to combat pro-lifers’ success in linking “pregnancy termination” to cancer, infertility and severe psychological trauma.

While those involved in the conference purported to help women by lowering maternal mortality through legalizing abortion, a new publication from the U.S. National Right to Life Committee points out that the lack of modern medicine and quality health care, not the prohibition of abortion, “results in high maternal mortality rates.” Contrary to “safe abortion” advocates’ claims, the NRLC argues that liberalization “in the developing world, where maternal health care is poor … would increase the number of women who die or are harmed by abortion.”

Indeed, a recent United Nations treaty body submission by the pro-abortion Centre for Reproductive Rights conceded that the nation of Sri Lanka had made great strides in lowering maternal mortality while retaining laws penalizing abortion that CRR considers among the world’s “most restrictive.”

 Samantha Singson is director of government relations for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). This originally appeared June 19 as a C-FAM Friday Fax and is reprinted with permission.