Politico Pro examines the reaction to a speech delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a TEDxChange conference in Berlin on April 5. “Gates’s speech was primarily focused on explaining why family planning is important in the developing world,” according to the news service. Gates said lack of access to modern contraceptives is “a life and death crisis” because with family planning, the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children could be saved annually, the news service notes. “But multiple global health experts heard her comments as an intentional effort to push back on the politicization of birth control in the United States following the Obama administration’s new contraception coverage policy, which they fear could spill over into global health policy,” the news service writes. However, “Gates Foundation spokesman Chris Williams said Gates was simply reiterating her long-standing support for family planning and that viewing these remarks in light of domestic politics would be ‘using the wrong lens,'” the article notes.
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
“[I]n the developing world, an estimated 215 million women who want to delay or avoid their next pregnancy cannot exercise this right as they lack modern contraceptives, resulting in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and more than 100,000 maternal deaths,” UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin writes in this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog post. He says that “[t]he United Kingdom government of David Cameron and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced plans for a summit in London in July to raise funds for voluntary family planning” and notes that “UNFPA … fully supports and is a partner in this historic initiative on an often-overlooked human right.”
Survey Shows Majority Of Americans Support Women’s Right To Access Maternal, Reproductive Health Care
In September 2010, “91 percent of Americans surveyed say they support the right for all women to have access to quality maternal and reproductive health care,” PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog reports. The blog contains a Population Action International infographic depicting the data and writes, “While support is slightly stronger in some parties, the consensus is hard to ignore” (4/9).
On Thursday at the TEDxChange conference in Berlin, Germany, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “delivered a powerful case for universal access to contraception for women around the world who need and want it,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. “She described birth control as an idea that, if made policy in both developed and developing countries, could save hundreds of thousands of women’s and children’s lives each year,” the newspaper writes, adding that she “noted being brought up a Catholic and being educated at church schools through high school, even that her mother’s great-uncle was a Jesuit priest.”
Government, NGOs Working To Improve Health Services, Education To Prevent Rising Teenage Pregnancy Rate In Guatemala
“Teenage pregnancies are on the rise in Guatemala, along with the drop-out rate in schools, family breakdown and many other related social ills,” Inter Press Service reports, adding that the “impoverished Central American country of 14 million people has an adolescent (under-20) birth rate of 114 per 1,000 women in rural areas, according to the National Mother and Child Health Survey for 2008-2009.” The article discusses efforts by the government and non-profit organizations to prevent unwanted pregnancies, including laws allowing for basic maternity services and sex education classes.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published several posts in response to the TEDxChange: “The Big Picture” presentation delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, in Berlin on Thursday.
The government of Sweden on Monday announced “a regional strategy for regional efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and address sexual and reproductive health” in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a press release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. “The strategy also contains guidelines detailing how Sweden will contribute to improving sexual and reproductive health and efforts to improve human rights for homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people” in the region, the press release states. The Swedish government is allocating SEK 700 million ($104 million) for 2012 to 2013 toward the strategy, according to the press release (4/2).
“If family planning services, including information about reproductive health, access to birth control, and health care, were available to all women, the deaths of 100,000 women during childbirth could be prevented every year,” Maeve Shearlaw, policy and advocacy coordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “In other words, access to family planning saves lives,” she writes, adding, “Clearly, more must be done to reach women in rural areas and to increase demand in places where women don’t even know about family planning methods. It is also important to focus on girls and young women, who are more at risk of losing their lives in childbirth — yet simultaneously much less able to reach family planning services” (4/2).
The Jakarta Globe examines maternal mortality in Indonesia, writing, “Indonesia may be progressing slowly and steadily toward fulfilling its targets under the Millennium Development Goals, but the issue of maternal health continues to present many challenges.” According to the newspaper, “Government statistics show that the maternal mortality rate [has] declined,” but “a report last week by health officials in Bali has highlighted a worrying reversal, with the provincial maternal mortality rate increasing from 58 per 100,000 in 2010 to 84 last year.”
Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes in an opinion piece in Nigeria’s Vanguard, “My top priority as a co-chair of the foundation I run with my husband is making sure that all families have access to safe and effective contraception tools that empower them to make a decision about what’s best for them and their family. And that means encouraging aid donors and governments here in Nigeria and across Africa to make family planning a priority.” Improved access to modern methods of contraception and child spacing would save millions of lives, “[b]ut family planning doesn’t just save lives; it also makes life better for families and communities, becoming a key driver of economic development,” Gates continues.