Though President Barack Obama signed an executive order on his third day in office to “lif[t] the odious ‘global gag rule’ that denied federal money for family planning work abroad to any group that performed abortions or counseled about the procedure, even with its own money,” he left standing a policy that is “an overly restrictive interpretation of the  Helms amendment.” The policy “imposes similar speech restrictions and bans using foreign aid money for abortions — even to save a woman’s life or in cases of rape in war zones like Congo, Sudan and Burma,” a New York Times editorial states.
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
Family Planning, Contraceptives A National Priority For Saving Women's Lives, U.N. Meeting Participants Say
First ladies, health and finance ministers, and parliamentarians from 12 developing countries participating in the U.N. Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Global Programme to Enhance Reproductive Health Commodity Security, which was launched in 2007, declared at a U.N. meeting held on Wednesday that “voluntary family planning, secured by a steady supply of contraceptives, is a national priority for saving women’s lives,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “More than 215 million women in developing countries want to avoid or space pregnancies but are not using modern methods of contraception, according to the UNFPA,” the news service writes.
“Rwanda’s health ministry has launched a campaign encouraging men to undergo vasectomies, in an effort to curb population growth in Africa’s most densely populated country,” Reuters reports. The government says to compete with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the country’s economy must continue to grow at an average seven to eight percent per year, and to do so, “the birth rate must be below three children per family,” according to the news agency.
“Without attention to population, countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan stand a good chance of staying mired in poverty, conflict, and corrupt, repressive government. That is why sustained investment in family planning by the United States and other countries would do more to stabilize the political climate there than any other foreign-policy initiative,” Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba, former Defense Department consultant and the Mellon Environmental Fellow in the department of international studies at Rhodes College, writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece.
“Tens of thousands of women in Haiti have severely limited access to reproductive and maternal healthcare, many are compelled to trade sex for food and most are vulnerable to rape, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Tuesday,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (8/30). The report said “[d]espite a mammoth humanitarian-care push in the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010 quake that killed as many as 300,000 people, serious gaps exist in the healthcare that women and girls are receiving,” the Los Angeles Times writes.
In the refugee camps in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince nearly two years after a devastating earthquake, “health and human rights officials warn of another crisis: an explosion of tent babies,” the Miami Herald reports. “Haiti’s tent baby phenomenon comes as the country continues to struggle to rebuild, and as the nearly 600,000 Haitians still living in hundreds of squalid camps in quake-ravaged communities see the avalanche of medical assistance from foreign doctors and nongovernmental organizations disappear,” primarily because of a lack of funding, the newspaper writes.
Describing a maternal health program that promotes family planning in the rural village of Bweremana in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Michael Gerson writes in his Washington Post column that “[t]he very words ‘family planning’ light up the limbic centers of American politics.” But “in places such as Bweremana, family planning is undeniably pro-life,” Gerson says, noting that “[w]hen contraceptive prevalence is low, about 70 percent of all births involve serious risk. When prevalence is high, the figure is 35 percent.”
GlobalPost Examines Whether U.S. Policy Prohibiting Funding For Abortion Services Hurting GHI Efforts In Nepal
GlobalPost reports on President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) in Nepal, one of eight GHI focus countries, and examines whether “a long-standing U.S. law” that “prohibits U.S. funds from being used for abortion services overseas for the purpose of family planning … is hurting its efforts to improve health care” in the country.
HIV-positive women across Africa are facing discrimination, with many “say[ing] they have been pressured â€“ even forced â€“ not to have children because people assume they will infect their babies,” PRI’s The World reports. “Across the continent, there have been organized efforts to prevent HIV-positive women from having children,” The World writes, referencing family planning programs aimed at HIV-positive women in Kenya, Namibia and Uganda.
Authorities in China “have begun a national campaign to crack down on procedures used to determine a fetus’ sex for anything other than medical purposes and abortions performed because a fetus is of a certain sex” in an effort to curb the country’s growing gender ratio imbalance, China Daily reports (Juan, 8/17). During the campaign, which will run until March 2012, “efforts will be made to raise awareness of gender equality, to severely punish those involved in cases of non-medical sex determinations and sex-selective abortions, and to strengthen monitoring,” according to Xinhua.