Lying about political opponents is a threat to democracy
Editorial Women’s Health,
Published: January 23, 2009
New York Times
President Obama on Friday began dismantling his predecessor’s broad and damaging assault on women’s reproductive health and freedom. He lifted the odious gag rule that President George W. Bush imposed on international family planning groups and began trying to restore financing to the United Nations Population Fund.
It was a reassuring message that Mr. Obama takes seriously his duty to safeguard women’s lives and basic rights, including free speech and the choice of whether to bear a child. The gag rule was first imposed by President Ronald Reagan. It barred any health care provider receiving American family planning assistance from counseling women on abortion, engaging in political speech on abortion or providing abortions, even with its own money.
President Bill Clinton lifted the gag rule, but Mr. Bush reinstated it in toughened form on his first full day in office in 2001. That seriously disrupted the best quality and most accessible family planning services in poor countries. It denied women access to desperately needed contraceptives, help in preventing H.I.V.-AIDS, and maternal care.
Mr. Obama’s executive order lifting the financing ban will mean fewer deaths from unsafe illegal abortions. Mr. Obama’s stated intention to work with Congress to restore financing to the population fund also is a life-saving step. It ends the sorry exercise by which Mr. Bush repeatedly blocked money approved by Congress to advance poor women’s reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end sexual trafficking and prevent the spread of H.I.V. and AIDS.
To justify this cruelty, the Bush administration perpetuated a bogus charge that the population fund has either stood by or helped with coerced abortions in China.
We trust these policy changes mark a good start toward a larger shift that will see the Obama administration undo the full range of Republican attacks on reproductive freedom.
We also hope it will press hard for passage of the Prevention First legislation designed to reduce abortions by, for example, facilitating honest sex education and improved access to contraceptives.
Donna from Dignity adds: I want to add some more information about the New York Times claim that the Bush administration "blocked money approved by Congress to ..... reduce infant mortality .... and prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. The following is an excerpt from a speech given by Ellen Sauerbrey, Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status on Women. It details programs for HIV/AIDS and maternal health and infant mortality. - Donna
Mutilation Inequality and violence against women contribute to women's vulnerability to many things--including HIV/AIDS. Women who suffer at the hands of an intimate partner, who are raped during times of armed conflict and political instability, or are trafficked for sexual purposes are at high risk of contracting HIV. Women known or suspected to be HIV positive are especially vulnerable. They may be abused, abandoned, or even killed. Even when women are not living with HIV themselves, they bear the brunt of caring for those with the disease. Over half of the 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS today are women. Worse, among young people living with AIDS, nearly two-thirds are female. Over 2 million infected women give birth each year, transmitting HIV to newborns.
Nearly 2,000 babies a day become infected with HIV during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. Most of these children will die before their fifth birthday. Because reducing mother-to-child transmission is a major U.S. priority, President Bush announced his $500 million International Mother and Child HIV Transmission Initiative, which dedicates funding specifically to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their newborns.
The United States' five-year, $15 billion program known as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is working to prevent millions of new HIV infections, provide antiretroviral therapies to millions living with HIV/AIDS, and care for millions of HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans.
The plan supports HIV/AIDS programs in 123 countries with a special focus on 15 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia representing more that half the world's infections. It also encompasses bilateral programs in nearly 100 other countries. Women's health receives too little attention in the developing world.
Each year more than 500,000 women (99 percent in developing countries) lose their lives to easily preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Childbirth is the leading cause of death of women in Afghanistan, where the lifetime risk of maternal mortality is 1 in 15. The majority of maternal deaths are preventable through increased access to skilled birth attendants, antibiotics, and other currently available technology. Last year I chaired a panel discussion at the UN aimed at increasing the political will so sorely needed to address this issue.
The United States has launched a $5 million initiative (REACH) to provide health-related accelerated learning and basic literacy training for women and girls in Afghanistan, including the training of midwives.
Worldwide, over the last four years, USAID has provided more than $475 million for maternal health, family planning, and reproductive health programs.
A harmful traditional practice that also threatens the health and violates the human rights of women is female genital mutilation or female circumcision, believed to prevent daughters from being unfaithful to their future husbands. Medically unqualified persons usually perform the practice--without anesthetic--on infants and girls. It may cause massive and fatal bleeding, and lead to chronic infections, sterility, and other complications. USAID has supported activities to eliminate female genital mutilation in a number of countries. This includes training health care providers about the long-term implications of female genital mutilation and educating local communities to abandon this cultural practice. ************************