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Committee on Reproductive Health (2001 - 2006)

Seminar on Ethical Issues in Reproductive Health
Organized by the IUSSP Committee on Reproductive Health and the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Wassenaar, Netherlands, 21-23 September 2006.


Call For Papers

The emergence of reproductive health as a major focus of international action in the population field in the aftermath of the 1994 International Conference on Population and development held in Cairo has coincided with rapid advances in the technology of human reproduction. Both developments are associated with important ethical dilemmas that need to be addressed in the formulation of public-health policy. A great deal of discussion is already taking place with regard to reproductive technology in developed countries, with much of the focus on medical ethics and biomedical research. In contrast, discussion of the broader social and cultural concerns that should inform reproductive-health research, policy, and programmes in many developing countries has been limited. At the same time, some issues, such as inequity in access to services, are common across the world but do not everywhere receive the same attention.

Ethical considerations were important in the paradigm shift from family planning to reproductive health, in part as a reaction to human rights abuses committed by some national family planning programmes. One result, for example, was the adoption of the concept of sexual and reproductive rights as human rights, in many ways reflecting a principle already accepted at earlier United Nations population conferences regarding the individual’s right to freely determine the number and timing of births, and to have access to the information and services needed to do so. This same principle can be applied to new issues such as assisted conception or surrogate motherhood, in the same way as it applies to earlier developments. Yet the existence of important cultural, ethical, and economic differences between individuals and between societies with regard to many aspects of reproductive health was already evident in the Cairo debates. More than a decade after Cairo, issues such as reproductive and sexual rights, abortion, and adolescent sexual behaviour remain controversial. Furthermore, tensions between the exercise of the individual’s reproductive and sexual rights, on the one hand, and societal goals relating to the aggregate impact of individual behaviour on health and demography, on the other, remain largely unresolved. Although resolution of such tensions may well be unattainable, informed debate can contribute to better policies and better practice.

The seminar seeks to bring together population, medical and public-health researchers, bio-ethicists, and policy makers in order to clarify these and similar ethical questions, as a contribution to the science-policy dialogue on reproductive health. Possible research themes include:

• Rights and responsibilities: Individual and social perspectives in the ethics of reproduction and sexual behaviour;

• Rights of men and women as individuals and as couples: Potential conflicts and their implications for reproductive health;

• Abortion and contraception: The impact of abortion and contraception policies and quality of care issues on the incidence of unintended pregnancy and abortion, and on associated morbidity and mortality; The availability and accessibility of a range of contraceptive methods; Informed choice in family planning programmes;

• Adolescent reproductive health: Parental control and responsibilities, and issues of consent; Special reproductive-health risks faced by adolescents; The right to accurate information;

• HIV/AIDS: Balancing the individual’s desire for confidentiality against the wider population’s need for protection; Lessons from treatment and counselling of people with sexually transmitted infections; Individual and societal concerns in voluntary counselling and testing for HIV (VCT); Issues in the allocation of antiretrovirals to HIV-positive individuals;

• Assisted reproduction: Rights and responsibilities; inequities in access;

• Poverty and inequality: The impact of poverty at both the individual and the societal levels on access to services and on a society’s ability to achieve desirable ethical standards in the provision of reproductive-health services;

• Research ethics and research standards: What are the variations across different countries or regions, different research modes, and different disciplines? Which differences are acceptable and which are problematic?

Papers must address ethical issues in reproductive health and health care but may span a range of applications including policies, service provision, clinical or biomedical research, and social-science research. Papers may be country or region-specific, or comparative, and may be on developing or developed countries.

People interested in contributing to the seminar should submit either completed papers, which must be unpublished, or detailed abstracts by 28 February 2006, on the IUSSP website at: http://www.iussp.org/Activities/Submissions/submissions.php.
Applicants will be notified whether their paper has been accepted by 31 March 2006. In the case of acceptance on the basis of an abstract, the completed paper must be submitted by 31 July 2006.
The organizers will pay for expenses at the meeting location for all participants, but funding for travel is limited. Applicants are encouraged to seek their own travel funding, but if they require travel assistance, they should indicate that need by ticking the appropriate box on the on-line submission form when submitting paper or abstract.

For further information, please contact Gigi Santow: GSantow@bigpond.net.au

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