Global Doctors for Choice

Almost all unsafe abortions take place in countries with restrictive abortion laws in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) aims to contribute a powerful and missing voice – that of physicians- to advocacy efforts to establish access to high quality reproductive health services around the world. Doctors contribute scientific authority, commitment to their patients’ best interests, and firsthand familiarity with the devastating consequences of unsafe abortion and the lack of reproductive health services to deliberations about health. Although some individual physicians have served as powerful advocates, there have not been resources or mechanisms to help them communicate, support one another and strategically translate different approaches from one country to another

GDC aims to bridge these gaps by creating a global network of physicians trained to advocate for safe abortion and reproductive health. GDC was developed in 2007 by Dr. Wendy Chavkin of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Ms. Jodi Magee, President/CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH), a national network of pro-choice physicians in the US. They have been joined in their efforts by physician activists from Europe, Latin America, and Africa.

GDC has developed a unique advocacy training model with four primary components:

  1. The curriculum is tailored to the local context. In countries and regions where training will be conducted, GDC will first establish local advisory groups to perform preliminary political mapping, providing local data and case studies, and to identify potential trainees and collaborating partners.
  2. Physicians are integrated within global networks of advocacy, sharing, and support. Although grounded in the local context, the curriculum weaves in relevant advocacy examples from around the world and involves local and international faculty.
  3. The model uses a skills-based approach providing doctors with hands-on training in technical and conceptual tools required to engage in advocacy with three types of organizations: medical, legal and women’s health NGOs.
  4. Trained physicians subsequently implement their newly acquired advocacy skills through concrete advocacy activities in collaboration with one of the three types of organizations.

GDC is currently working with local advisory committees to train physicians in advocacy skills in Mexico City, Colombia and South Africa. In March 2009, GDC released a position statement in support of two Brazilian physicians who were excommunicated by the Catholic Church for performing a legal abortion for a nine-year-old pregnant with twins following rape and incest. GDC plans to host thematic conferences on important issues influencing access to reproductive health care such as “conscientious” refusal of care. To facilitate exchange between physicians, GDC is establishing a global data bank of case studies of physician advocacy. High levels of interest and support from physicians around the globe and collaborating partners confirm the need for an international network of physician advocates.