The Religious Consultation
on Population, Reproductive Health  and Ethics

 revisiting the world's sacred traditions


July 1-15, 2007


Darfur Gains More Midwives Despite Conflict: On July 10, the Christian Science Monitor reported that NGOs have improved health in Sudanese refugee camps through midwife training. Groups like Relief International regularly train Sudanese women to be midwives in their communities to help reduce the country’s alarming maternal mortality rate. “Nowadays, people want midwives in their village and there's a waiting list for classes," said Fatima Houssain, dean at the Midwifery School of Al Fasher, which is funded by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Read: Christian Science Monitor

UK Hints at Policy Shift: On July 13, BBC News reported that UK International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander has emphasized the need in development work for "new alliances, based on common values." Alexander called for a multilateral approach to global poverty and disease, and said empowering women must be a top priority for every nation. "The economic, social and political position of women in many countries is actively preventing us from reducing child and maternal mortality, and stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS," he said. Read: BBC News

Plan B Usage Increases: On July 13, the Washington Post reported that sales of Plan B, the “morning after pill,” have doubled since the FDA approved it for over-the-counter sale one year ago. Family planning advocates attribute the increase to increased access and information about birth control. However, patients seeking Plan B still face obstacles like pharmacists’ refusal to stock or dispense the drug, price gouging and an age restriction of 18 years. "Even though it's now available without a prescription, there are still significant obstacles that customers are facing around the country," said Ted Miller of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "The over-the-counter access is not a cure-all." Read: Washington Post

NGO Calls for Health Policy Reform in Nigeria: On July 2 and 3, the Daily Trust and Vanguard (both Nigeria) reported on a media training workshop on sexual and reproductive health and rights held there by IPAS. The U.S.-based nonprofit organization called on Nigerian officials in a detailed 12 point communiqué to create awareness, reform laws and approve new policies to address high rates of illegal abortions and maternal mortality. Read: Daily Trust, Vanguard


Women Gain More Rights in Sierra Leone: On July 4, IRIN reported that the parliament of Sierra Leone has enacted three laws that will significantly advance women’s rights. Women will now be able to inherit property, domestic violence will be illegal and young women will be protected from forced marriage. The laws will also increase female participation in government. "These laws will give women confidence," 50/50 program coordinator Christiana Wilson told IRIN. "If women are not confident enough, they will not come out for political positions.'" Read: IRIN


World Population Day: Men Must Play Role in Family Planning: Several media outlets reported that on World Population Day, July 11, the United Nations announced that men must play a vital role in family planning in order to improve women’s health and save lives. Men often are decision-makers on issues of family planning, and by supporting a woman’s right to choose the timing and spacing of her children, men can alleviate poverty and reduce disease and high levels of maternal mortality. "Experience shows that men's involvement and participation can make all the difference," notes Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund. "By discouraging early marriage, promoting girls' education, fostering equitable relationships, and supporting women's reproductive health and rights, progress is made." Read: IRNA, Voice of America, Indo-Asian News Service, Inter Press Service

Former Surgeon General Cites Political Censorship: On July 10 and 11, the Associated Press and The New York Times reported that former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona had accused the Bush administration of silencing him on issues such as stem cells, sex education, emergency contraception, prison and mental and global health. Carmona said his speeches were edited by political appointees and the release of major health reports were delayed for political reasons. "The reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas," said Carmona. Read: Associated Press, The New York Times

Aspiring Surgeon General Faces Scrutiny: On July 12, The New York Times reported that President Bush’s nominee to replace Carmona as U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger, insisted during confirmation hearings that he would quit if asked to consider politics before science. Holsinger also faced criticism over a seemingly anti-gay research paper he wrote 16 years ago, which alleged unnaturally high levels of disease in homosexuals. Read: The New York Times

Muslim Ulemas to Spread Family Planning Message: On July 3, the Jakarta Post (Indonesia) reported that the National Family Planning Coordinating Board of Indonesia will draft a handbook for ulemas, influential Islamic religious bodies, to disseminate family planning information to the public. Zaidul Huque, a representative for UNFPA, said, "Indonesia has been on the right track in involving religious leaders in the family planning program, and we acknowledge that support from the leaders in the country has gone through a long process of discussion among the ulemas, the government and other community leaders, including NGOs," Read: Jakarta Post

MDGs Ignore Sexual Health: On July 6, the Inter Press Service reported on a new study by Gender Action, a Washington-based group that monitors multilateral development banks' policies towards women and gender equality. It accused the Millennium Development Goals of ignoring reproductive and sexual health and rights. The report argued that the banks fail to offer solutions for women’s health problems and tolerate price-gouging for many lifesaving HIV drugs. "For these reasons, [the banks’] project descriptions that promise to sustainably increase access to reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and other services are misleading," the report concluded. Read: Inter Press Service


Women’s Leadership Needed to Fight AIDS: In early July, several media outlets reported on an International Women's Health Summit in Kenya where thousands of activists, doctors and educators determined that women should take the lead in the global fight against AIDS. The Nation wrote: “The women pledged to work towards expanding access to services for women infected and affected by HIV, including safe testing, treatment, support and to promote the human rights of young women and children.” Read: Agence- France Presse, Xinhua General News Service, East African Standard (Kenya), The Nation

Activist Says Aids Research Ignores Women: On July 7, the Inter Press Service reported that Argentine activist Patricia Perez, co-founder of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS and 2007 Nobel Prize nominee, lamented inadequate research on AIDS and women. She said women need to be more visible in health care systems, and more study should focus on the different affects AIDS has on women. “The health policies don't have a gender perspective.” Perez said. Read: Inter Press Service

EDITORIALS and COLUMNS: On July 6, The Guardian (UK) published an op-ed by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and Jean-Michel Severino, head of the French development agency (AFD), about the benefits of urban growth. A recent UNFPA report stated that by 2008, half the world population will live in cities. Governments have long tried to restrict urban immigration, but this approach does not work, Obaid said. Instead, cities must develop housing, health and employment policies to capitalize on the benefits of urban growth. “Like it or not, our future will be urban, and it is high time we started supporting urban development and acknowledging the pivotal role it should play in public policy. Only then can we capitalize on its potential to reduce urban and rural poverty.” Read: The Guardian

On July 10, the Des Moines Register published a letter to the editor from Dr. Lawrence Smith Jr., president of The Population Institute, about the need for men to fully support women’s health. Smith said that without the full participation of men, global health concerns like maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS cannot be addressed properly: “Men must be actively engaged in making personal and political commitments for positive change to achieve global goals for maternal health, gender equality and combating HIV/AIDS.” Read: Des Moines Register

On July 5, Women’s Enews published an op-ed by Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich about HIV/AIDS and black women in the United States. "It is a shockingly under-reported fact that AIDS is the No. 1 killer of African American women between the ages of 25 and 34," said Dr. Lorraine Cole, CEO of the YWCA-USA. Scruggs-Leftwich suggested that HIV cannot be tackled properly until women and race are addressed in health policy. Read: Women’s Enews

On July 5, the Washington Post published a letter to the editor by Jill Sheffield, president of Family Care International, about Afthanistan’s devastated health care system, its effect on woman and the Millennium Development Goals. MDG #5 is to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015, but in Afghanistan, one in six women die in childbirth, the highest rate in the world. Sheffield stated that if the Afghan government and its U.S. backers had invested in reducing maternal mortality, the country would now have a bare-bones health care system and its economy, among other problems, would have drastically improved. Read: Washington Post

On July 7, an op-ed in The Nation (Kenya) discussed the International Women's Health Summit held there in early July. Sixty percent of HIV-positive Africans are now women. The summit determined that the best hope for fighting the disease is to have women take control of their health, bodies and futures through education and prevention. “These women are the ones who have told us of the desperate need for female-initiated HIV prevention approaches. After all, their lives and the future of our families and countries depend on it.” Read: The Nation

On July 2, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, about the proposed new global health budget of $6.5 billion. She said the amount is impressive but previous restrictions on family planning – like allotments for abstinence-only education and the anti-prostitution pledge – have undermined global health efforts. Garrett said funds should be spent on programs that will yield results and save lives. “Americans lead the world in total giving (though not for per capita giving) for global health. Let's be sure that we spend it properly.” Read: Washington Post


The above summary is produced by the Communications Consortium Media Center, 401 Ninth Street, NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC 20004, 202.326.8700. Redistribution is encouraged with credit to CCMC.

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