U.N. Chief Calls for Universal Access to Abortion and Contraception for Teen Girls

April 24, 2012 - 6:06 PM

ban Ki-moon

FILE: U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon waves before flying out of N'djamena, Chad.  (U.N. Photo by Evan Schneider)

(CNSNews.com) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that millions of girls -- teenagers and younger -- need access to abortion and contraceptives in order to “avoid unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections.”

“Sixteen million adolescent girls become mothers every year, and every day, more than 2,000 young people contract HIV,” Ban said. “We have a collective responsibility to drive these numbers down.”

Ban said the nations of the world must provide “reproductive health care” – i.e, access to abortion and contraceptives -- for young people, as well as give them “access to the necessary information and the means to protect themselves from sexual abuse and violence.”

“We cannot ignore the facts. Many young people are sexually active, and because of this, they may face risks to their health, including sexual violence,” Ban said in remarks delivered to the Commission on Population and Development, which opened a week-long session Monday at U.N. headquarters in New York City.

Ban, quoting from a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, said “an estimated 3 million unsafe abortions took place in developing countries among girls aged 15 to 19 in 2008.”

“Unmet need for modern contraception remains at historically high levels,” the UNFPA report says. “A study shows that more than 60 per cent of adolescent men and women in four sub-Saharan countries did not know how to prevent pregnancy, and more than one third did not know how to obtain contraceptives.”

For the last few years, the U.N. chief has pushed for universal access to abortion for young people, as well as “protection” from early marriage.

The commission, composed of 47 member states, meets annually to discuss population issues and trends in relation to development strategies and policies. The theme of this year’s meeting is “adolescents and youth.”

In addition to reproductive health care rights, Ban also said young people need access to education, adequate nutrition and employment, and said the upcoming U.N. Sustainable Development Conference in Brazil -- the Rio+20 conference -- in June will be an opportunity for countries to renew their commitment to young people.