The choir

Jane Gabriel
25 October 2007

by Jane Gabriel

"I am a man out of a woman" - so began the rallying cry of one of women's human rights lifelong advocates, Professor Fred Sai, at the opening of the world's first International Conference on Safe Abortion (MSI Global Safe Abortion Conference).

The numbers of women dying are appalling: 100 million women alive today will have an unsafe abortion and more than 13% of them will die as a direct result. 68,000 women die a year as a direct result of an unsafe abortion - that is one woman every 8 minutes. Of the 42 million known abortions a year, 20 million of them will be unsafe. Professor Sai came from Ghana to London as a medical student in 1949, one of the nurses he trained with at the time became pregnant, she swallowed sleeping pills and died weeks later. He asked himself "What kind of law leads to this lonely death?" That was the point at which Professor Sai decided that his life's work would be to provide safe abortion.

Nearly 60 years later, the numbers of women dying and being injured by unsafe abortions are still rising. But Professor Sai has not given up. Today he is adviser to the president of Ghana and the World Bank. Addressing the conference he came up with an unlikely metaphor for those who work with women dying the loneliest and most painful deaths, he said "Its like talking to a choir, it should never stop practising" and called on the delegates to ask themselves "Is our music resonating with those we want to hear?" as well as changingtheir tunes to reach out to new audiences.
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