The Bush administration this month is quietly cutting off birth control supplies to some of the world’s poorest women in Africa.
Thus the paradox of a “pro-life” administration adopting a policy whose result will be tens of thousands of additional abortions each year — along with more women dying in childbirth.
The saga also spotlights a clear difference between Barack Obama and John McCain. Senator Obama supports U.N.-led efforts to promote family planning; Senator McCain stands with President Bush in opposing certain crucial efforts to help women reduce unwanted pregnancies in Africa and Asia.
The latest bout of reproductive-health madness came in the last couple of weeks when the U.S. Agency for International Development ordered six African countries to ensure that no U.S.-financed condoms, birth control pills, I.U.D.’s or other contraceptives are furnished to Marie Stopes International, a British-based aid group that operates clinics in poor countries.
“The irony and hypocrisy of it is that this is a bone to the self-described ‘pro-life’ movement, but it will result in deaths to women who just want to space their births,” said Dana Hovig, the chief executive of Marie Stopes International. The organization estimates that the result will be at least 157,000 additional unwanted pregnancies per year, leading to 62,000 additional abortions and 660 women dying in childbirth.
All good points. But then he says this:
Proponents of the cut-off are not misogynists. They are honestly outraged by forced abortions in China. But why take it out on the most impoverished and voiceless people on earth?
I get what he’s going for: People can do things that they know kill, injure and maim women, but if they slap an ideological label on it and call it “pro-life” and pretend its about saving babies, then they aren’t misogynists. And Kristof isn’t a big fan of calling shit what it is — whether that’s misogyny or racism. So I get that he doesn’t want to hurt his readers’ feelings by telling them that if they support the supposedly “pro-life” groups that are causing serious damage around the world, they are supporting some serious woman-hating.
But if you support the supposedly “pro-life” groups that are causing serious damage around the world, you are supporting some serious woman-hating.
Because the fact is, it’s been the UN and pro-choice human rights groups that have done the most to curb forced and coerced abortions in China. There have been no reputable reports that forceable or coercive family planning measures have ever been supported by the UN in China — a U.S. investigation sent by the Bush administration yielded nothing. The China argument is bullshit; it just happens to be a convenient excuse to de-fund health care organizations around the world.
In the name of “pro-life” politics, women are having their birth control and condom access cut off, putting them at higher risk for health complications, STIs (including HIV), unwanted pregnancy, and maternal injury and death. In the name of “pro-life” politics, women and their children are dying.
No babies or fetsues are being saved by these proposals — if nothing else, “pro-life” international policies are excellent at upping the abortion rate (not to mention the maternal mortality rate). That’s because it’s not about life. It’s not even really about abortion. It’s about a broader world view that wants women to be in a particular role, and seeks to legally compel all women to fit into that mold. Cutting off abortion and contraception rights (because keep in mind, these anti-choice groups oppose birth control, too) is just one way of limiting women’s autonomy and putting their bodies under state control in a greater effort to relegate them to the domestic sphere and enforce female submission.
I call that misogyny. But if Kristof doesn’t want to brand it that way, fine — at the end of the day, at least we can all agree that “pro-life” policies cut off birth control and condom access, limit pre-natal and well-baby care, and kill and maim women around the world.
That is the face of the “pro-life” movement. There is nothing life-affirming about it.
- Leslee Unruh Eats Babies by Jill May 28, 2007
- Shocker: Women in a “Pro-Life” Nation Want Birth Control by Jill February 12, 2008
- The Cost of “Pro-Life” Policies: 27 Nigerian Women Every Day; 10,000 Nigerian Women Every Year by Jill April 7, 2008
- This is what Anti-Choice Looks Like by Jill April 29, 2007
- When there is no choice by Jill November 17, 2008