The New York Times’ “IHT Rendezvous” blog examines factors contributing to the more than 13 million abortions that occur in China every year, the highest number of any country worldwide. Though China’s so-called “one-child policy” is a contributing factor, “with women coerced into aborting ‘out of plan’ children by the threat of heavy fines or the loss of a job — or, in some cases, physically forced to abort,” some “scholars are now pointing to a new factor — under-25 women who, if they are unmarried, do not directly fall within the remit of the family planners,” the blog writes. A recent survey by China’s Research Institute of the National Population and Family Planning Commission estimates six million abortions occur annually among this group, the blog adds. This highlights other issues, the blog notes, including young people’s increased sexual freedoms and a culture and tradition that remains reluctant to discuss sex education, leaving young women without the knowledge of how to use contraception. “Yet gradually, people are beginning to talk more openly about what had long often been discussed only in absolute privacy,” the blog writes and provides some examples (Tatlow, 10/19).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
“Though the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been touted as one of our nation’s most successful initiatives in global health (and certainly one of President George W. Bush’s most positive legacies) it continues to miss the mark” when it comes to family planning, global gender specialist and freelance writer Jessica Mack writes in KPLU 88.5’s “Humanosphere” blog. “The essential role of contraception, especially barrier methods, in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS is intuitive, obvious, and also well documented,” she writes. “While earlier PEPFAR rules did not specifically dictate whether or not funding could be used for contraceptive supplies, the language over the last few years has become increasingly restrictive on this point,” she continues, noting that PEPFAR’s recently released 2013 country operational plan (COP) forbids the use of PEPFAR funds to purchase family planning commodities. Mack concludes, “PEPFAR is simply flying directly in the face of the Global Health Initiative’s vision and the stated objectives of the Obama Administration” (10/25).
In the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Phillip Nieburg, senior associate of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, discusses a recent report (.pdf) he wrote, titled “Improving Maternal Mortality and Other Aspects of Women’s Health: The United States’ Global Role,” “that addresses key challenges to improving maternal mortality and women’s health worldwide and talks about what the related priorities of U.S. foreign policy should be.” He says, “Rather than continuing what appears to me as a piecemeal approach to global aspects of reproductive health, with separate programs to address, e.g., gender-based violence, women and HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, family planning, cervical cancer, girls’ education, etc., I argue in my report that the United States should develop and implement a comprehensive global plan for women’s health that includes males as well as females, using coordinated prevention and care programming for each stage of the reproductive health life cycle” (10/25).
In an opinion piece in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, David Olson, a global health communications consultant who worked as a communications adviser to the Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance in Kenya earlier this year, describes how “abortion rights [in the country] have been liberalized in certain cases in a Constitution approved in a public referendum two years ago.” He continues, “The new constitution says clearly that ‘the life of a person begins at conception’ and ‘abortion is not permitted unless…'” Olson writes, “And that innocuous ‘unless’ is what keeps the abortion issue alive in Kenya, almost two years after the constitutional referendum: ‘…unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.'”
“Uruguay’s Congress voted narrowly on Wednesday to legalize abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a rare move in largely Catholic Latin America that underscores the country’s liberal leanings,” Reuters reports. “President Jose Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla fighter, has said he would sign the bill into law,” the news service notes (Castaldi, 10/17). “[T]he bill approved by Uruguay’s Senate came after a pointed debate among legislators, producing a compromise that disappointed both abortion-rights groups and opponents, who have vowed to carry out a referendum to overturn the legislation,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Legislators carefully worded the bill, describing it not as legalization of abortion but as a decriminalization measure.” The newspaper writes, “The bill effectively legalizes abortion in the first trimester, permits abortion through 14 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and allows later-term abortions when a woman’s health is at risk” (Romero et al., 10/17).
Aissata Sall Yade, a communications assistant for the Senegal Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, part of IntraHealth International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog about Aissatou Dia Fall, a head midwife at Senegal’s Gallo Dia Health Center in Yeumbeul, and her efforts to improve access to health care for women in the community. She has reached out to different organizations for monetary assistance for her clients, Yade notes, adding, “Strategies like Aissatou Dia Fall’s will help improve Senegal’s national contraceptive prevalence rate, which is currently only 12 percent. It will also help reduce one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates (410 deaths per 100,000 live births) and reduce the fertility rate (an average of five children per woman)” (10/17).
The China Development Research Foundation, a Chinese government think tank close to the country’s central leadership, “is urging the country’s leaders to start phasing out its [so-called] one-child policy immediately and allow two children for every family by 2015,” the Associated Press reports. “The official Xinhua News Agency said the foundation recommends a two-child policy in some provinces from this year and a nationwide two-child policy by 2015,” according to the AP, which adds, “It proposes all birth limits be dropped by 2020, Xinhua reported.” The AP continues, “[I]t remains unclear whether Chinese leaders are ready to take up the recommendations. China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission had no immediate comment on the report Wednesday.” The news agency examines the complexity of the policy and its effects on Chinese demographics (Olesen/Ji, 10/31).
Gender Action recently released a new report (.pdf), titled “Banking on Health: World Bank and African Development Bank Spending on Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the organization’s website. The report, based on fieldwork in Cameroon and Uganda, “reviews World Bank and AfDB projects to highlight how good quality matters as much as high quantity in reproductive and sexual health and HIV/AIDS spending,” the website notes. In addition to the report, Gender Action created a database (.xls) “containing comprehensive information about World Bank and AfDB investments (2000-2012) addressing reproductive health and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan African countries,” the website states (10/9).
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, in partnership with Women Deliver, on Friday published two posts on youth perspectives to celebrate World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. In the first post, Wanzala Martin, a social worker and co-founder of Allied Youth Initiative-Uganda, writes about access to contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health for young people with disabilities, saying, “The health of youth with disabilities is a human rights issue and is a fundamental pillar for progress on Africa’s road to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015” (9/14). In the second post, Aiste Dackauskaite, an advocacy project coordinator at the Lithuanian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association, writes about barriers to and myths about contraceptives in Lithuania, which has the lowest levels of contraceptive use in Europe (9/14).
“South Africa faces significant challenges when it comes to sexual health, and with the high prevalence of rape, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, schools need to implement strong and informative programs on sexuality and contraceptive use,” Jos Dirkx, founder of Girls & Football SA, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, published in partnership with Women Deliver as part of a series on youth perspectives to recognize World Contraception Day, observed annually on September 26. She discusses some women’s personal experiences with contraception, and concludes, “Girls & Football SA strongly believes that by creating a safe space through our programming, we are able to present girls with the chance to ask questions, get accurate information and start a dialogue about their bodies, their health, and their sexuality” (9/18).