In a section of the report on human rights IFRC quotes a widely criticized document issued by Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, which said, "States must take measures to ensure that legal and safe abortion services are available, accessible, and of good quality." The IFRC report goes on to editorialize, "But the real challenge is to find out how many states will indeed change their policies accordingly.”
This may lead some to believe IFRC could eventually declare abortion a human right as Amnesty International did in 2007. Amid much controversy, Amnesty International simply announced that endorsing abortion as a right was a "natural" outgrowth of its 2-year campaign countering violence against women.
Initially an external relations manager at IFRC told the Friday Fax the organization “definitely” did not consider abortion a human right. Gabriel Pictet, the manager of IFRC’s community health unit said, "IFRC did not change its position on abortion as a human right. To my knowledge it never had one."
Pictet said IFRC quoted the highly controversial UN special rapporteur’s document "because the issue of safe abortion is relevant to public health, to health inequities and to human rights. By ensuring access to safe abortions, rather than making abortions illegal and thereby unsafe, the likelihood of reaching the Millennium Development Goal 5 [improve maternal health] increases.”
IFRC has adopted the same position as pro-abortion groups at the UN who equate "unsafe" with illegal abortion, and invoke international development agreements to promote legal abortion. In fact, abortion can cause maternal health problems and even death. Moreover, the world's lowest maternal mortality occurs in countries where abortion is illegal, such as Ireland and Chile.
What’s more, abortion is never mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). UN member states rejected the term "reproductive health" within the MDGs on every occasion it was debated, precisely to avoid interpretations that it might include abortion. While UN agencies began asserting in 2008 that MDG5 includes a target on reproductive health, they cannot publicly assert that the target includes abortion.
For now, IFRC’s Pictet says, "Because abortion is a matter of personal conscience, it does not make sense for an international membership organization like IFRC to go beyond raising the issue."
The Geneva-based IFRC is a separate organization from the 150 year-old International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Whereas ICRC works in conflict zones and adheres to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, IFRC is supposed to take the lead in post-conflict and non-conflict humanitarian emergencies.
Both IFRC and ICRC are part of the Red Cross Movement whose mission is "to alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies."