April global news round up
SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS
*”Family Planning is So Easy, Yet So Little is Invested in it”: On April 1, The Guardian (UK) featured a key note interview with Marie Stopes International’s Chief Executive Dana Hovig, covering all the recent developments on the international and domestic sexual and reproductive health (SRH) agenda. Dana took the opportunity to respond to those critics of MSI and the broader SRH agenda: “….the Daily Mail shouldn’t decide for women. The Pope – a man who has never had sex – shouldn’t and MSI shouldn’t. We should all provide information and facts and trust women to make their own decisions.”
Financial Crisis Threatens Development Gains: IPS reported April 2 and 8, on the annual session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, declared, "We will not eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and inequality, and achieve the other Millennium Development Goals, unless greater attention is paid to population issues and more resources are devoted to women's empowerment and reproductive health," she said. The CPD recommended a tripling of investment in family planning, revising targets set in the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action.
Chile Debates Decriminalizing Some Abortions: IPS reported April 2 that, ahead of presidential elections, a debate has arisen around decriminalizing therapeutic abortion.
Plan B May Soon Be Available to U.S. Adolescents: The Los Angeles Times (USA) reported April 5 that the emergency contraceptive Plan B may soon be approved for over-the-counter sale to women regardless of age.
*South African Women Warned Against ‘Dodgy’ Abortion Clinics: Eyewitness News (South Africa) reported April 6 that Marie Stopes South Africa (MSSA) was collaborating closely with police authorities to apprehend several; suspects under investigation for offering ‘backstreet abortions’. MSSA spokesperson Laila Abbas advised women looking for abortion to “look for a landline telephone number, not just a cell phone number. They must look for a proper brand like Marie Stopes. The facility needs to have a fixed address, not just a street corner.”
*Roman Catholic Archbishop Speaks Out Against Advertising Abortion: On April 10 and 11, The Irish News (Ireland) and The Birmingham Mail, The Belfast Telegraph and other UK media reported that the soon to be appointed Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols called upon followers to oppose the proposed advertising of abortion and sexual health services on television. He said: “I doubt that any intended adverts about abortion would be fully truthful and tell the whole truth of the effects of abortion in a woman’s life.” The media reported that Marie Stopes International had welcomed the announcement and has said it would immediately consider running advertisements.
Spain Battles Itself on Abortion: The New York Times (USA) reported April 11 that proposed changes to Spain’s abortion laws would make abortion available on demand through 14 weeks gestation and through 22 weeks in cases of congenital fetal disorders or where continuing the pregnancy would endanger the woman’s life. The Catholic Church opposes the new law. Equality Minister Bibiana Aído called the new law “modern and sensible,” despite the fact that it does little to resolve disputes over abortion after 22 weeks, which is banned in all circumstances.
Proposed Repeal of “Conscience” Clause Attracts Opposition: The New York Times (USA) published a blog April 12 by Stanley Fish exploring philosophical and legal precedents for the debate over the Health and Human Services “conscience clause,” instituted on the last day of former President George W. Bush’s term. The Washington Times reported April 9 and CNN reported April 8 that “Freedom to Care,” an umbrella organization of Christian medical professionals, is opposing the rule’s repeal. The group claimed that repealing the rule, which grants medical professionals broad rights to refuse to participate in any procedure they find “morally objectionable,” would be a sign that the government had become “totalitarian and dangerous.”
Abortion Restrictions Advance in Oklahoma and Arizona: The Tulsa World (USA) reported April 15 that Oklahoma HB 1595, was passed by the state senate. The bill would require doctors to report to the state information such as how an abortion was paid for and why a woman chose to terminate her pregnancy. The Tucson Citizen (USA) published an op-ed April 13 by state senators Paula Aboud and Linda Lopez (both D-Tucson), opposing Arizona HB 2564, a bill that imposes multiple restrictions on women seeking reproductive health services, including emergency contraception and abortion.
USAID Directors Ask President Obama for More Family Planning Funding: Women’s eNews reported April 22 U.S. News and World Report published a blog by Paul Bedard on April 17 reporting that five former directors of USAID were set to issue a report requesting that funding for family planning services around the world be tripled, to $1.5 billion annually. The authors of the report, “Making the Case for U.S. International Family Planning Assistance,” argued, "It is time to reverse the decline in U.S. political and financial commitment.”
*First British TV Advertisement for Emergency Contraception Creates Controversy: The Independent, The Sun, The Daily Mirror (all UK) and other national media reported April 23 / 24 on the screening of the first UK TV advertisement promoting emergency contraception. The advertisement generated widespread debate polarized along the usual lines. Marie Stopes International welcomed the advertisement, which provides women with clarity about the treatment available to them should their regular contraception fail.
Clinton, Verveer Reiterate U.S. Support for Reproductive Health and Rights: The Associated Press and AFP reported April 23 on statements made by two Obama administration officials, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Melanne Verveer, ambassador for international women’s issues. Speaking at an event honoring Nafis Sadik, former executive director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, Ambassador Verveer, said that the Obama administration’s recent contribution of $50 million to the agency "will send an unambiguous signal to the world” that the U.S. is committed to goals to improve reproductive health and rights everywhere. In testimony before the House Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Clinton endorsed comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe abortion.
Mexico City Abortion Reform Hailed, “Personhood” Laws Raise Ban Fears: The News (Mexico) reported April 23 and April 20 on Mexico’s abortion laws, which vary by state. In the two years since Mexico City legalized abortion and made the procedure available for free, health officials have noted dramatic drops in emergency hospital visits for women suffering complications from unsafe abortions, as well as reports of abandoned newborns. However, several Mexican states have implemented legislation defining embryos as people, and abortion rights advocates worry that a federal ban on abortion may be in the works.
Legislature Passes Anti-Abortion Amendment in Dominican Republic: IPS reported April 23 that, despite strong opposition from the groups of health professionals and women’s rights advocates, the legislature, under intense pressure from the Catholic Church, passed a constitutional amendment declaring that “The right to life is inviolable from conception until death.” The amendment, Article 30, would outlaw abortion without exception, including in the case of ectopic pregnancy, and likely prohibit several forms of contraceptives. Dr. Lillian Fundera, a gynecologist said the amendment "will increase maternal mortality. Many more women will die. Why? Because women will still seek abortions as they have always done.”
FDA Approves Over-the-Counter Access to Plan B for 17-Year-Olds: The Baltimore Sun published an editorial April 24 and The New York Times (USA) and the San Jose Mercury News (USA) published editorials April 23 endorsing a decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand over the counter access to the emergency contraceptive Plan B to seventeen-year olds, and the The New York Times reported April 23 on the FDA’s move, which complied with a federal judge’s ruling. The Mercury News argued, “Avoiding unwanted pregnancy is a desirable social goal, but the FDA has acted because Plan B is safe and effective, not because of ideology. It's a relief to see that standard return”
Lack of Access to Birth Control Remains Concern in Philippines: Xinhua reported April 24 on the prevalence of unintended pregnancy in the Philippines and the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a column April 17 by Rina Jimenez-David supporting a bill pending in the Philippines’ legislature to extend public funding for family planning.
*Clearing the Way for Compulsory Sex Education in the UK: The Guardian, Eastern Daily Press, Liverpool Daily Post, Express and Star and Catch 21 Westminster TV (all UK) and numerous other UK media sources reported April 27 government minister Sir Alasdair Macdonald’s announcement that sex and relationship education (SRE) is expected to become a compulsory part of the English national curriculum by 2011. Marie Stopes International was widely reported as welcoming the plans.
Family Planning Campaign Uses Grassroots Approach: The New Times (Rwanda) reported April 28 on an effort in to promote family planning, using community outreach to educate the public on the potential consequences of the country’s current rapid population growth.
Reproductive Health Advocates Assess Obama’s First 100 Days: The Associated Press and Reuters reported April 29 on statements President Barack Obama made regarding abortion rights during a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office, while multiple media outlets, including BirthControlWatch.org, Ms. Magazine and the Huffington Post published editorials and blogs April 28-April 30 by reproductive health advocates assessing the President’s progress. Addressing the news conference, Obama said, "I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies." The editors of Ms. Magazine declared, “The Obama administration has taken giant strides for women in terms of employment, reproductive health and elevation of women’s rights domestically and globally.”
HIV & AIDS
Obama Administration Launches “Act Against AIDS” Campaign: The Washington Post (USA) published an editorial April 14 and reported April 8 on “Act Against AIDS,” a five-year, $45 million public awareness campaign to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
*Netball Helps in Awareness Drive: The Fiji Times reported April 19 that the National netball team had undergone HIV testing in Suva to help raise awareness of the disease. The tests were varied out by members of the Marie Stopes International Fiji team as part of the STOP HIV group.
Obama Picks Leader for Global AIDS Effort: The New York Times reported April 27 that President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Eric Goosby to run the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Dr. Goosby is a professor at the University of California San Francisco, and previously served in the Clinton administration. Read: The New York Times
China Birth Limits Create Gender Gap: The Associated Press reported April 12 that a study published in the British Medical Journal has found that China currently has 119 male births for every 100 girls and that this gender gap is likely to lead to civil unrest in years to come.
Afghan Shiite Personal Status Law Draws Protest, Foreign Opposition: The Associated Press reported April 15 that Afghan protestors opposing the country’s new Shiite Personal Status Law were met with violent opposition and accusations of foreign meddling. The Guardian (UK) and the Washington Post (USA) reported April 5 that Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed to review the law, which grants men wide-ranging rights to restrict their wives’ activities and to demand sex every four days.
Irish Women Challenge Abortion Ban in European Court: The Irish Times (Ireland) reported April 21 that three women were set to challenge Ireland’s abortion ban in the European Court of Human Rights. The women’s case argues that the ban violated four articles in the European Convention on Human Rights, including protection from “inhuman or degrading treatment” and freedom from discrimination.
Health Care Reform is a Necessity for Women: The Huffington Post published a blog by Marcia Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center arguing that, for health care reform to work for women, it must include provisions to make care more affordable and universally accessible, and provide comprehensive benefits, including preventive and reproductive care.
EDITORIALS AND COLUMNS
Book, Columnists Advocate Investment in Women and Girls: The New York Times (USA) published a column April 5 and a blog April 15 by Nicholas Kristof, and National Public Radio’s Fresh Air (USA) featured an interview with Michelle Goldberg, author of The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World arguing that investment in women and girls’ well-being is essential to economic and social development. Kristof exerpted a passage from Goldberg’s book: “Women’s rights must not be treated as trivial adjuncts to great questions of war and peace, poverty and development. What’s at stake are not lifestyles but lives.”
Editorials Urge End to Abstinence-Only Funding: The Chattanooga Times Free Press (USA) published an editorial April 13 and the Boston Globe (USA) published an editorial April 10 urging Congress to invest in comprehensive sexuality education. The editorials noted the United States’ rising rates of teen pregnancy and STI infection and linked them to the government’s funding of abstinence-only programs.
With the exception of those items marked with an asterisk (*) all the summaries above are produced by the Communications Consortium Media Center, 401 Ninth Street, NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC 20004, 202.326.8700.