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Questions Raised Over U.K. DfID Funding And Sterilization In India

A Wall Street Journal editorial addresses reports published on April 14 in the Guardian alleging that the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID) funded a program in India that “has ‘forcibly sterilized Indian women and men’ — a practice India supposedly left behind in the 1970s,” the editorial states. “DfID issued a statement objecting to the Guardian’s report, saying that its funding was not meant to be going to ‘sterilization’ centers, only to helping ‘women access a mix of reversible methods of family planning,’ such as contraceptive pills, and to ‘improve the quality of services,'” the editorial writes, adding, “DfID says it has also offered technical support to help Indian authorities crack down on forced sterilization.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “A DfID official, who declined to be named, clarified to us that the national Indian program funded by British taxpayers does include voluntary sterilization, but that sterilization specifically is ‘not part of what we fund,'” and “[h]e added that DfID will end its support for the national Indian program next year and will focus family-planning aid only on state governments in India’s poorest regions” (5/1).

International Community Should Unite To Ensure Adequate Family Planning Services For Women In West Africa, Globally

“For many years, in large parts of West Africa, the percentage of women who use contraception has stalled at less than 10 percent, leading many to declare that there is very little or no demand for family planning (FP) in the region. This couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Catharine McKaig, project director of family planning at the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), the USAID Bureau for Global Health’s flagship maternal, neonatal and child health program, writes in a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Among women — young and old, those who have had many children and those who have had few or none — there is a sea-change happening. These women are expressing their desire for family planning methods, and our approach towards integrating maternal and child health care services with FP is producing results,” she writes, concluding, “It is an optimal moment to unite as a community supporting women’s health worldwide to ensure adequate supply and minimal cost for family planning services to the hundreds of thousands of women in West Africa who are seeking care” (5/10).

Loss Of U.S. Funding For UNFPA 'Would Be Devastating' To Family Planning Services In Developing Countries

“By voting to ban any U.S. contribution to UNFPA” in the FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday “made a judgment call that saving the lives of women and girls around the world is simply not a U.S. priority,” Valerie DeFillipo, president of Friends of UNFPA, writes in a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece. She notes that “[c]ommittee members voted against amendments that would permit funding to UNFPA for preventing and treating obstetric fistula, ending female genital mutilation, and providing family planning services and contraceptive supplies in nine sub-Saharan African countries with high rates of poverty and maternal mortality where USAID does not provide family planning assistance.”

Women's Rights To Family Planning Should Not Be Controversial

“There should be #NoControversy about a woman’s right to plan when and how many children to have, to have the opportunity to improve her own health and that of her children, to educate her children and to grow her family’s economic productivity,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the family health division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Wendy Prosser, a research analyst with the family health division, write in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. The authors highlight a recent TEDxChange talk by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, in which “she addresses the issues surrounding birth control and how it is literally life-saving for millions of women and children around the world.” They continue, “But of course, any time politics, religion, and sex are intertwined, controversy tends to emerge,” and discuss several viewpoints that have emerged in media coverage of the issue (5/14).

Guttmacher Institute Media Update Examines Impact Of U.S. Family Planning Assistance Abroad

The Guttmacher Institute on Friday released a media update examining the impact of U.S. international family planning assistance. The update highlights the benefits supported by $610 million “appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs for FY 2012” and states, “These gains would be seriously jeopardized if this already modest funding for the program were to be cut again,” noting that “reductions of different magnitudes would have proportional effects” (4/27).

CNN Reports On China’s ‘One-Child Policy,’ Implications For Women

CNN reports on how “[t]he issue of forced abortions — and in some cases, forced sterilizations — in China has seized the spotlight in recent days with news of escaped activist Chen Guangcheng,” who “rose to fame in the late 1990s because of his advocacy for what he calls victims of abusive practices, such as forced abortions, by Chinese family planning officials.” China’s so-called “one-child policy has been blamed for abuses,” the news service reports. The news service writes, “In some cases, advocates say, fetuses identified as female are aborted, … abandoned, left to die or raised as orphans,” as “Chinese traditionally prefer boys over girls.” CNN describes several reports from women’s health advocates working in China of women undergoing forced abortion and sterilization; a report from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “created by Congress to monitor human rights and the rule of law in China”; and the State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report, the news service notes.

IPS, AlertNet Report On Health Issues Resulting From Climate Change

Inter Press Service examines the relationship between climate change and family planning in least-developed countries (LDCs), writing the “double challenge of mitigating climate change and combating crushing poverty makes improving reproductive rights and promoting gender equality imperatives that can no longer be delayed, according to several recent reports and agreements.” IPS highlights several reports and agreements, including an agreement between U.N. Women and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) that “aims at tackling gender inequality in the 75 OIF member states, most of which are also LDCs”; an agreement between U.N. Women and the European Union “to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations in their work on gender equality”; and the Royal Society of London’s People and the Planet report, “which focuses on reproductive rights and social justice as cornerstones of global economic sustainability” (Godoy, 5/30).

Despite Progress, More Effort 'Urgently' Needed To Prevent Maternal Mortality In Africa

Citing a U.N. report released in May, titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,” which shows “the number of women worldwide dying of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in the last 20 years,” Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher for women in Africa at Human Rights Watch, writes in this Inter Press Service opinion piece, “Although there was a 41 percent reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, the progress is slow and uneven. … Greater effort is urgently needed to save pregnant women.” She continues, “African governments need to invest in strong health care systems and to ensure that there are enough health care facilities that can provide emergency obstetric care, equitably dispense suitable drugs and supplies, and employ a sufficient number of adequately trained health professionals, including those with midwifery skills.”