Vet­eran law­maker: Con­tra­cep­tion a hu­man right

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

The newly re-elected Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion should pro­mote con­tra­cep­tion as a hu­man right, do­mes­ti­cally and throughout the world, a vet­eran House mem­ber said Nov. 14 as a new re­port on global fam­ily-plan­ning was re­leased.

“What the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sult means is that mil­lions of women here in the United States will continue to re­ceive fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices through Planned Par­ent­hood, and the United States will continue to fund the im­por­tant pro­grams of the U.N. Pop­u­la­tion Fund,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Demo­crat.

Women and men ev­ery­where need ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, coun­sel­ing and ser­vices on birth con­trol and le­gal, safe abor­tion, she said.

“This is a hu­man-rights is­sue,” Ms. Maloney added. “I think that was the fun­da­men­tal les­son to draw from our elec­tions here in the United States.”

The con­gress­woman’s re­marks co­in­cided with the re­lease of a re­port on global fam­ily plan­ning by the United Nations Pop­u­la­tion Fund (UNFPA).

The State of World Pop­u­la­tion Re­port 2012 says 222 mil­lion women of re­pro­duc­tive age in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries need af­ford­able birth con­trol, in­clud­ing abor­tion ser­vices, and if an ad­di­tional $4 bil­lion was di­rected to meet this need, the costs for ma­ter­nal and new­born health care could fall by more than $11 bil­lion a year.

“Fam­ily plan­ning has a pos­i­tive mul­ti­plier ef­fect on de­vel­op­ment,” said Dr. Ba­batunde Oso­time­hin, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of UNFPA.

“Not only does the abil­ity for a cou­ple to choose when and how many chil­dren to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most ef­fec­tive means of em­pow­er­ing women,” he said.

More­over, Dr. Oso­time­hin said, fam­ily plan­ning is a hu­man right — not a priv­i­lege — and there­fore any type of ob­sta­cle to it “must be re­moved.”

Jan­ice Shaw Crouse, se­nior fel­low of Con­cerned Women for Amer­ica’s Bev­erly La­Haye In­sti­tute, ex­pressed con­cern about the UNFPA re­port’s state­ments about “en­sur­ing univer­sal ac­cess” to fam­ily plan­ning.

It’s “an­other way of say­ing that any dis­agree­ment is to be squelched; that free­dom of re­li­gion and free­dom of speech are ir­rel­e­vant when fam­ily plan­ning ‘rights’ are at stake,” said Mrs. Crouse.

The UNPFA re­port also did not delve into re­ported abuses in China, such as in­ci­dents in which fam­ily-plan­ning of­fi­cials dragged Chi­nese women into clin­ics and forced them to sub­mit to abor­tions or ster­il­iza­tions.

“UNFPA is very, very strongly com­mit­ted to the right of in­di­vid­u­als to choose fam­ily plan­ning when they want to use it, and it works closely with the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to en­sure that the na­tional fam­ily plan­ning pro­gram is as vol­un­tary as pos­si­ble,” said Mar­garet Greene, lead au­thor of the UNFPA re­port, said on a me­dia con­fer­ence call.

Fam­ily plan­ning needs to be vol­un­tary, agreed Sarah Craven, chief of the UNFPA’s Wash­ing­ton of­fice. “En­gag­ing in China is a dif­fi­cult task,” she said, “but we continue to push that hu­man-rights agenda for­ward, as we do in any coun­try that we work in around the world.”

“Forc­ing a woman to ter­mi­nate a preg­nancy that she wants is clearly wrong … but so is forc­ing a woman to continue a preg­nancy that she does not want,” said Su­san Co­hen, di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment af­fairs at Guttmacher In­sti­tute.

But Reg­gie Littlejohn, whose Women’s Rights With­out Fron­tiers op­poses China’s one-child birth pol­icy, said the UNFPA re­port’s ti­tle, “By Choice, Not By Chance,” was ironic.

“What about the 600 mil­lion women in China who are un­able to ‘de­cide on the num­ber and spac­ing of [their] chil­dren,’ not be­cause they lack ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tion but be­cause they will be forcibly aborted if they get preg­nant with­out a birth per­mit?” she asked.

More­over, the UNFPA re­port ex­plic­itly calls for fam­ily-plan­ning ser­vices for women who are young and sin­gle, but it doesn’t ad­dress China’s law for­bid­ding births to sin­gle women and its ef­forts to per­form abor­tions on women who break that law, said Ms. Littlejohn. Prac­tices such as these are “state-spon­sored vi­o­lence against women,” she added.

Dr. Oso­time­hin praised a Lon­don sum­mit on fam­ily plan­ning held in July, dur­ing which donors in­clud­ing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion pledged $2.6 bil­lion in fund­ing for fam­ily plan­ning. An­other $2 bil­lion was pledged by lead­ers of de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. These funds will be used to make vol­un­tary fam­ily plan­ning to around 120 mil­lion girls and women in 69 de­vel­op­ing coun­tries by 2020.

“This is a pos­i­tive step for­ward. How­ever, we need to do more, much more,” he said, urg­ing spend­ing around $8 bil­lion a year for fam­ily plan­ning.

Ac­cord­ing to the UNFPA re­port, the five coun­tries where mod­ern con­tra­cep­tive prod­ucts are most com­monly used are China, United King­dom, Por­tu­gal, Nor­way and Costa Rica. In the United States, con­tra­cep­tive preva­lence is about 73 per­cent; those coun­tries are all 80 per­cent or higher.

The coun­tries where mod­ern con­tra­cep­tives are most rarely used, at 5 per­cent or lower, are So­ma­lia, Chad, An­gola, Eritrea, Guinea and Niger.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The new Amer­ica: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Demo­crat, said the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion should pro­mote con­tra­cep­tion as a hu­man right, do­mes­ti­cally and throughout the world.

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