UK Stands Up For Women’s Lives

Maybe I’ll move to London.

The British government will today publicly defy the United States by giving money for safe abortion services in developing countries to organisations that have been cut off from American funding.

Nearly 70,000 women and girls died last year because they went to back-street abortionists. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered serious injuries.

Critics of America’s aid policy say some might have lived if the US had not withdrawn funding from clinics that provide safe services – or that simply tell women where to find them.

Way to go, British government! This issue refers, of course, to the Global Gag Rule, which cuts off U.S. funding to any organization abroad that so much as mentions the word “abortion.” U.S. funding never pays for abortion abroad, so this isn’t an issue of foreign aid paying for actual procedures. The Gag Rule cuts off funding to any group that tells pregnant women if abortion is a legal option; lobbies its own government for reproductive rights; or performs abortions with its own non-U.S. funding. This rule further extends to HIV/AIDS funding, meaning that numerous AIDS clinics have been de-funded, cut back and shut down in the name of “pro-life” politics. And the clinics that are losing funding are the very clinics that are attempting to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place, and that provide basics like prenatal and well-baby care.

DFID asked IPPF to produce a report on the scale of the damage caused by unsafe abortion. Death and Denial: Unsafe Abortion and Poverty, is published today. It reveals that an estimated 19 million women will risk the consequences of an unsafe abortion this year, of whom 70,000 will die. This accounts for 13% of the 500,000 maternal deaths each year. Reducing unsafe abortions is critical to reaching the UN’s Millennium Development Goal on cutting maternal mortality, said Mr Thomas.

Women’s low status in many poor countries makes them vulnerable to sexual coercion, abuse and exploitation, says the report. Almost 50% of sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 or less.

The death and injury toll is highest in countries where abortion is illegal or severely restricted, as in Kenya, where some 30% to 50% of maternal deaths are a result of unsafe abortion.

The Family Planning Association of Kenya, an IPPF member, chose to forfeit US funds rather than sign the “global gag” clause. It was forced to close three reproductive health clinics, scale back others and slash outreach programmes.

But restricting abortion is life-affirming.

When abortion is banned or highly restricted, and when women are lied to or blocked from basic access to reproductive healthcare, they die. The current U.S. policies kill women, period. They are not pro-life. And the UK deserves a huge round of applause for taking a big step to protect women’s health and women’s lives.

Thanks to Ms. Lauren for the link.

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7 comments for “UK Stands Up For Women’s Lives

  1. Tex
    February 6, 2006 at 10:43 am

    Man, it always complicates my simmering antipathy for the increasingly mendacious and authoritarian Blair government when they do stuff I agree with.

    Of course, there are things we can do that are easier than moving to London. Frinstance, if what we like so much is that the British give money to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, then, well…

  2. Gabriel Malor
    February 6, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    This is a demonstration that we live in an imperfect world.
    Conservatives lament these women’s deaths and the circumstances which brought them about. But (for them) it is not a simple matter of saying, “These deaths are avoidable, let’s stop them.” Conservatives also want to avoid the deaths caused by abortion. One way they want to do that is by de-incentivizing it. Their hope is that more lives are saved by the Global Gag Rule than are ended.

    One interesting thing I noticed from the article is that, based on the numbers provided by IPPF, only 0.3% of “unsafe abortions” result in death. That really surprised me.

    The only way that conservatives justify these deaths is by the belief that more lives are saved than lost. Unfortunately, it would take broad surveys and an econometric analysis to give conservatives hard numbers with which to show the result of the gag rule policy.

    Without those numbers, conservatives are forced to rely on the belief that, on the margins, people respond to incentives. One thing that may be in conservatives favor here is that so many unsafe abortions are taking place and the number that results in death is relatively small. The high number of unsafe abortions lends hope that a change in the incentive would result in a correspondingly high-volume change in the total number of abortions. But that is just a hope, there are no numbers to back that up.

    The real story is that this argument is only useful for those people who give the life of the unborn the same “weight” as the life of a living woman.

    All this leads to the conclusion that it is a sad, sad world.

    One irritating thing I noticed about the linked article is the comment made by the IPPF exec that giving money is “brave.” Huh? Oh, yeah, they’re standing up to the Americans. Such bravery. I wonder if that is more of a marketing effort than anything else. Are more people likely to give to IPPF if they believe they are being courageous with their money?

    (Please note: I followed Jill over here from Jeff G’s place. I have a genuine interest in this topic and am not just trolling. The abortion situation in this country is one such that middle ground is almost impossible to find. That makes it unlike most other political debates in this country. The difference between left and right is not just one of degree when it comes to abortion, and that is what interests me.)

  3. Kyra
    February 6, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you, UK!

    Now if some other countries who don’t have their heads stuck up their asses could do the same?

  4. February 6, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Oy, the more research I do into this, the more disgusted I am becoming at the actions of my government. Thanks for the heads-up, Jill.

  5. February 6, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    The appalling amount of death that occurs in some parts of the world due to the lack of contraception and abortion–and that American conservatives advocate for more of these deaths–is about as good as it gets that anti-choice groups are inherently misogynist. Advocating for family planning funding cuts is directly advocating for an increase in woman’s deaths.

  6. kate
    February 6, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    Oh I pray for the day when the European Union will grow and flex its muscle in defiance of the world bully of America.

  7. February 7, 2006 at 9:29 am

    The first mistake is presuming that anyone besides a feminist cares about women. They care about vessels and property, period.

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