National

Forum shows abortion remains
contentious issue

Although some may consider abortion to be an uncontroversial issue, participants at the three-day Global Youth Forum (GYF) in Bali are still debating its pros and cons.

Although the Programme of Action (PoA) of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) stated that safe abortion was no longer controversial, questions remain on how countries can properly implement it.

“We should be very careful on this issue as moral and religious debates are still raging,” Eddy Hasmi, a representative of the Indonesian government on the GYF’s international steering committee, said on Wednesday.

Eddy said that the Indonesian delegation was still negotiating whether to return to the discussion on safe abortions and sexual rights, as proposed in a draft of recommendations on staying healthy.

“We as the government need to pay attention. We have to serve and respect the interests of all our people or conflict could arise among different groups in the country,” he said.

Staying healthy is one of five themes being discussed at the GYF. The others are comprehensive education; promoting youths’ transition into decent work; sexuality, families, rights and well-being; and leadership and meaningful participation.

In the debate on staying healthy, one young participant forwarded a proposal for legalizing abortion.

“I think they recognize the need for the legalization of abortions and access to safe abortions,” said South African youth rights advocate Rishita Nandagiri, who also acts as cochair of the forum’s international steering committee

United Nations data shows that adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 19 account for at least 2.2 to 4 million unsafe abortions in developing countries.

Women under the age of 25 account for almost half of all deaths from such abortions.

Eddy said all the recommendations should be consistent with the 1994 ICPD.

“However, some recommendations on staying healthy, particularly on safe abortions, are in fact not in line with the international framework,” said Eddy.

The draft recommendations on staying healthy stipulate: “As part of the basic package, governments must provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services that include safe and legal abortion, maternity care, contraception, HIV prevention, care, treatment and counseling to all young people.

“Governments and UN agencies should support the sexual and reproductive rights of young people including ensuring access to legal and safe abortion that is affordable, accessible, and free from coercion, discrimination, and stigma; providing support and protection mechanisms that promote the right to choose,” it says.

Eddy said these recommendations would have serious implications for Indonesia, as the country only allows abortions in specific cases.

“Abortions are not allowed except in certain medical situations,” said Eddy.

The recommendations resulting from the three-day meeting will be reported to a special session of the UN General Assembly on the ICPD 1994 Global Review, which is scheduled to take place in 2014, and will be used in the drafting of the Post-2015 Development Agenda for the next 20 years.

Kwabena Osei Danquah from the UNFPA’s board secretariat said that the ICPD PoA had clear provisions on safe abortions and unsafe abortions and their impact on human lives so that, in the context of the ICPD, there should be no controversy.

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