Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mothers in America

A bit behind the times, but this week President Bush has decided to withhold funding from UNFPA for the seventh consecutive year, depriving women (and men, for that matter) all over the world of vital family planning resources, including birth control access and prenatal and obstetrical care.

The press release does a little hand wringing about China (over its policy of "coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization"), but pardon a little knee-jerk cynicism, but maybe the President just doesn't realize that it's possible for countries to provide safe, affordable, available reproductive care.

A woman in the United States has about a 1 in 4,800 chance of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth. There are about 11 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.

That sounds pretty good, right? Compared to, say, Afghanistan (where one in eight women die due to pregnancy-related causes), or to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century, sure. Compared to the rest of the postindustrial world? Not so much. We rank 41 out of 171 "developed" nations.

According to an article in the Journal of the American Medicine Association, homicide is the leading cause of maternal death. SPC Megan Lynn Touma was murdered while pregnant two weeks ago. Araceli Camacho Gomez yesterday.

The UNFPA decision comes rather on the heals of the adoption of a resolution by the AMA condemning homebirth, or any birth outside of hospitals. Midwifery is still illegal in fourteen states. (Relatedly, Madeline Holler writes about her illegal homebirth.)

Meanwhile, a small but growing number of pharmacists refuse to do their job and dispense birth control and emergency contraception.

So, you know, maybe the President's just confused. Maybe he is under the impression that every country everywhere treats women's bodies as political playing fields. Maybe he believes this is safe, healthy, and respectful toward women. Maybe he's just deeply confused.


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