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In 2008, 355,000 women died while giving birth or from illegal or dangerous abortions, a study published by The Lancet said.
But more than 250,000 deaths were averted that year because contraception reduced unwanted pregnancies, it said.
"If all women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy use an effective contraceptive method, the number of maternal deaths would fall by a further 30 percent," according to the research.
The paper, led by John Cleland, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, appears in The Lancet on the eve of a "London Summit on Family Planning," promoted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
It is campaigning for the rights of 120 million women and girls to have access to family planning.
"Increasing contraceptive use in developing countries has cut the number of maternal deaths by 40 percent over the past 20 years," said the paper.
Millions of women each year experience unintended pregnancies, and millions more have unmet need for family planning. One of the persistent gaps in knowledge is the role of gender barriers that women face in defining and achieving their reproductive intentions. This paper provides a gender analysis of women’s demand for reproductive control. This analysis illuminates how the social construction of gender affects fertility preferences, unmet need, and the barriers that women face to using contraception and safe abortion. It also helps to bridge important dichotomies in the population, family planning, and reproductive health fields.
Jennifer McCleary-Sills, Allison McGonagle, Anju Malhotra 2012
Representative Jeff Fortenberry, who has introduced legislation on the issue, acknowledged hesitation by some fellow Republicans to take on the incendiary issue. But he said a delay could give Republicans time to recast the issue as a question of religious freedom rather than women's rights.
"We'll keep trying to appropriately frame the debate about this core American principle," Fortenberry said.
Representative Pete Sessions, who heads the House Republican campaign committee, said party leaders are not backing off. "We're not hesitant to do anything," Sessions said. "The successful rain dance has a lot to do with timing."
House Republicans have taken a cautious approach after the Senate, mostly on party lines, rejected a measure that would have allowed employers with moral objections to opt out of birth control coverage and other services.
A week ago, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, went on Meet the Press, the top-rated Sunday talk show, to press the case that Republican opposition to insurance coverage of contraception is part of a broader GOP "war on women."
Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, argued on the program that the issue was one of religious freedom, not one of denying access to health care.
Republicans had been criticized 10 days earlier for holding a hearing on contraceptive coverage that lacked any women testifying. Yet there were no elected Republican women appearing on the political shows that Sunday to support the party'sposition. In politics, that's called "bad optics."
To be sure, the networks, not the parties, select guests for Sunday shows, and women of any political persuasion are underrepresented: They generally make up about one-fifth of guests. On Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., appeared as part of the NBC program's roundtable discussion.
Last week's disparity illustrates a challenge the GOP faces in the "war on women" controversy and, come fall, in combating President Obama's strength among female voters: The party is in something of a rebuilding season for its roster of prominent spokeswomen.
There is something truly baffling about the 2012 presidential candidates hotly debating Planned Parenthood and birth control. These battles were fought — and won — half a century ago. At that time, the vast majority of Americans, nearly all mainstream religious organizations and leaders in both political parties accepted contraception as beneficial to families, society and the world.
The move toward mainstream acceptance of contraception began in the early 20th century and accelerated in the 1940s. In 1942, the Birth Control Federation of America changed its name to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Margaret Sanger, leader of the birth control movement, opposed the change. She thought the new name weakened the woman-empowering message of the term “birth control.” But she was overruled. Abraham Stone, medical director of the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau, explained at the time that “planned parenthood” signaled “the need for individual couples to plan their families and for nations to plan their populations.”
As the birth control movement became mainstream, it still took several years for the nation’s leaders to endorse it. In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared: “I cannot imagine anything more emphatically a subject that is not a proper political or government activity or function or responsibility . ... The government will not, so long as I am here, have a positive political doctrine in its program that has to do with the problem of birth control. That’s not our business.”
Just a few years later, President John F. Kennedy — a Democrat and the nation’s first Catholic president — supported family-planning programs as part of foreign aid. Even Eisenhower, JFK’s Republican predecessor, eventually came around, admitting in the mid-1960s: “Once as president, I thought and said that birth control was not the business of our federal government. The facts changed my mind. ... Governments must act. ... Failure would limit the expectations of future generations to abject poverty and suffering and bring down upon us history’s condemnation.”
For the next two decades, every American president promoted contraception as an essential part of domestic and foreign policy. Even the Catholic Church considered lifting its prohibition on contraception — and almost did.
The outcry over Rush Limbaugh calling birth control activist Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” seems to have worked. Several days after his attempt to slut-shame the Georgetown University law student, Limbaugh issued a rare apology on his website, saying "in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize."
The outcry over Rush Limbaugh calling birth control activist Sandra Fluke a “slut”and a “prostitute,” seems to have worked. Several days after his attempt to slut-shame the Georgetown University law student, Limbaugh issued a rare apology on his website, saying "in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize."
President Barack Obama worked to quell the anger over the health care requirement that religious-affiliated organizations cover employees' contraception. He announced Feb. 10 that employees at the organizations can receive contraception directlyfrom the health insurance provider.
Two recent events brought women's health to the forefront: Female U.S. House Democrats walked out of a hearing in protest that their female witness wasn't added to a majority-male panel of witnesses, and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorumsupporter Foster Friess made a poorly-received remark about women holding Aspirin between their knees as a form of birth control.
"Republican agitating on this issue could cause themselves trouble at the polls this year," The polling center concluded. "If (Republicans) want to make it about social issues and making it easy and affordable for women to access birth control, Democrats win."
“Culture war,” in fact, increasingly seems too vague a term for the current conversation in the country about women’s rights. That conversation is acquiring an increasingly retrograde tone, one that should cause liberals to be alarmed.
It’s hard to pinpoint where the current upsurge in dismissive rhetoric about women’s rights began. Anti-abortion sentiment has long been a staple of right-wing politics, of course. But recently, conservatives have seemed particularly fixated on Planned Parenthood. Last February, congressional Republicans sought to eliminate funding for Title X, a federal grant program that provides HIV testing, contraception, and cancer screenings (through pap smears and breast exams). Title X, Republicans claimed, was funding abortions at Planned Parenthood, which Senator Jon Kyl said did little else.
Kyl had his facts badly wrong, it turned out. Abortion represents only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, and the organization is legally prohibited from using Title X funds to cover abortion-related expenses. This didn’t seem to bother Kyl. The Senator’s comment about Planned Parenthood’s activities “was not intended to be a factual statement,” said his spokesman. Another fact that apparently didn’t trouble him: Title X has funded the early detection, over a 20 year period, of at least 55,000 cases of cervical cancer, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
Obama preserved Title X during the budget showdown, but the administration’s attitude toward abortion and contraception has been muddled. In December, the Health and Human Services secretary overturned the Food and Drug Administration’s ruling making Plan B, commonly known as “the morning-after pill,” available to all women over the counter. A seventeen-year-old girl can get the morning-after pill without a prescription; a sixteen-year-old cannot.
The White House did a quick about-face on Friday after a firestorm of controversy over birth control regulations, publishing a requirement that insurance companies pick up the tab for women's contraceptives if religious employers object to paying for them.
President Obama complained that the issue had become a political football, and his senior aides characterized the move as an accommodation rather than a compromise. But while the move pleased allies, it did not appease Republicans in Congress and conservative Catholic organizations expressed suspicion.
"Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services -– no matter where they work," President Obama said on Friday.
"But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -– not the hospital, not the charity -– will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles."
The much-awaited compromise is meant to appease religious institutions that say federal rules on contraception violate their religious beliefs.
After a period of substantial decline, the global abortion rate has stalled, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO). Between 1995 and 2003, the overall number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15–44 years) dropped from 35 to 29; according to the new study, the global abortion rate in 2008 was virtually unchanged, at 28 per 1,000. This plateau coincides with a slowdown, documented by the United Nations, in contraceptive uptake, which has been especially marked in developing countries. The researchers also found that nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, and almost all unsafe abortions occur in the developing world. The study, Induced Abortion: Incidence and Trends Worldwide from 1995 to 2008, by Gilda Sedgh et al., was published online today by The Lancet.
In the developing world, the abortion rate was 29 per 1,000 in both 2003 and 2008, after falling from 34 per 1,000 between 1995 and 2003. The situation was somewhat different in the developed world, excluding Eastern Europe, where the abortion rate was much lower, at 17 per 1,000 in 2008, having declined slightly from a rate of 20 in 1995.
“The declining abortion trend we had seen globally has stalled, and we are also seeing a growing proportion of abortions occurring in developing countries, where the procedure is often clandestine and unsafe. This is cause for concern,” says Gilda Sedgh , lead author of the study and a senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute. “This plateau coincides with a slowdown in contraceptive uptake. Without greater investment in quality family planning services, we can expect this trend to persist.”