Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Development Secretary highlights unsafe abortion; calls to empower women in international agenda

The new International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell addressed abortion and maternal health in his first overseas speech in Washington this week, citing death rates from unsafe abortions, and promising that Britain will place women at the hearth of the international development agenda. In his speech, which addressed a range of issues around aid and women’s health, Mitchell highlighted the data on abortions, which sees 20 million women seeking unsafe terminations every year, resulting in over 70,000 fatalities. He cited President Obama’s declaration that a woman’s right over her reproductive life is a fundamental freedom, and stressed that he believed it constitutes “a basic human right”. However, Mitchell stopped short of making any direct pledges to support international access to safe, legal abortion, merely promising that Britain will urge nations to sign up to a set of commitments on maternal health, and keep women at the centre of the development agenda. While the Washington speech was a positive sign from a Conservative Cabinet minister, it was also reported this week that Nadine Dorries, Conservative back-bencher and leading voice of the Parliamentary anti-choice faction, has been appointed to the Health Select Committee. Dorries, who was previously a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee – but failed to attend any meetings -and who is currently facing questions about her expenses, had campaigned to chair the Health Committee, but that post has been filled by Stephen Dorrell.