Check , January 15, 2009
Fight Of Our Lives: UNICEF Uncovers The State of Maternal Mortality
Childbirth and pregnancy are extremely dangerous
endeavors for the women of the world but most especially for women in developing
nations and even more especially for teen girls in developing nations. We know
this. We know that anti-choice, religious right extremists prefer to throw women
and girls under the bus rather than admit to this fact. But it is the truth.
fact, Lorraine Berry at My Left Wing writes about the extremely conservative group
Concerned Women for America's (CWFA) latest tirade on teen pregnancy, in their
effort to make sure failed abstinence pledges are promoted over education and
contraception. Lorraine writes:
Sometimes, all I need to know I can learn
in the local graveyards. If the CWFA doesn't believe that being pregnant is risky,
that we all need to be making an effort to provide ALL women with proper pre-natal
care, contraceptives, access to abortions, and assistance in leaving abusive marriages,
I'd be happy to walk them through any of the dozen or so graveyards around here
that have way too many graves for young women and their newborns. First wives,
second wives, third wives, all buried with their husbands, who outlived his wives
because childbearing killed each of them. The saddest markers, of course, are
the ones where the mother and newborn are buried together.
childbirth harm and kill women and are still quite dangerous for newborn babies
and as far as I can tell the situation for both are not improving. UNICEF will
even back me up on this. Today, the organization released its annual
report and its pages reveal some shocking news:
Having a child remains
one of the biggest health risks for women worldwide. Fifteen hundred women die
every day while giving birth. Thats a half a million mothers every year.
Its really an unconscionable number of deaths.
Its a human tragedy on a massive scale, says UNICEF Chief of Health
Dr. Peter Salama.
A human tragedy on a massive scale?
sound like a phrase you hear anti-choice organizations use constantly to refer
to the "tragedy of abortion"? But how, and I ask this honestly, how
does one justify using millions and millions of dollars and woman- and man-power
to strip women and families of their right to access safe abortion care when half
a million women (and their babies) are in danger of injury or death from preventable
In fact, for every woman who dies from pregnancy or childbirth related
causes, there are 20 who suffer pregnancy-related illness or experience severe
health consequences - that's ten million women every year who survive their pregnancies
only to suffer these extreme health outcomes. And we're talking severe people
- obstetric fistula, anyone? But even fistula could be prevented and easily -
easily - treated if this issue were the global priority it should be.
it gets worse. The report focuses some of its attention on the even worse plight
of adolescent pregnant girls. According to the report, every year more than 70,000
girls - young girls between the ages of 15-19 years old - die from pregnancy and
child-birth related causes.
There is a strong connection between the status
of girls and women in society, opportunities for education, and access to critical
health care services during pregnancy and childbirth and throughout a female's
"If young girls are not in school, they are more vulnerable,"
South African Health Minister Barbara Hogan said at the launch. "It's not
just a health issue; it is about the status of young women and girls."
are some concrete ways in which we can work towards solving the problem that involve
providing necessary health services. And these services will help save the lives
of both women and babies.
In addition to adequate nutrition for women,
birth spacing is also central to avoiding preterm births, low birthweight in infants
and neonatal deaths; studies show that birth intervals of less than 24 months
significantly increase these risks. It is also imperative to secure girls
access to proper nutrition and health care from birth through childhood and into
adolescence, womanhood and their potential childbearing years.
what the underlying and contributing causes to the decimation of our mothers are,
so why are girls and women still, literally, fighting for their lives?
and newborn health is part of the Millennium Development Goals, a contract between
the world's governments, to tackle critical issues like poverty, HIV/AIDS, and
maternal mortality. Unfortunately we have made the least progress on this goal:
to reduce maternal mortality by 75% by the year 2015. In fact, it is a given that
we won't reach that goal. Why is this?
According to the UNICEF report,
That maternal health as epitomized by the risk of death or disability
from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth has scarcely advanced in
decades is the result of multiple underlying causes. The root cause may lie in
womens disadvantaged position in many countries and cultures, and in the
lack of attention to, and accountability for, womens rights.
other words, the report says, conventions like CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination
of Discrimination Against Women) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
both of which stipulate family planning, preventive health care, pre and post
natal care and more are not being followed. It may be worth noting here that the
United States is the only industrialized nation that has neglected CEDAW by not
I am going to start and end this post somewhat punitively
by referring once again to the larger anti-choice movement. I challenge anti-choice
advocates to work with organizations like UNICEF, reflect on the knowledge that
the Convention on the Rights of the Child brings us, and to use the information
that family planning, prevention and education save the lives of women, girls,
and newborn babies to refocus their energy on the lives of our mothers and children.
In order to tackle the dire rates of maternal mortality around the world, we must
prioritize the health and well-being of women & girls by doing what works
- even if what works is in opposition to what the political leaders of these anti-choice
organizations want to see happen.
more on The State of the World's Children (and Women), read the report.
this page to a friend!