News Article31/05/2009

May global news round-up

June, 2009

Murder of Dr. George Tiller: Multiple media outlets reported and published op-eds and blogs May 31-June 11 on the murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of very few late-term abortion providers in the United States. Most discussed the impact of his death and the subsequent closure of his clinic on women, health providers and policy debates. In an editorial, the Washington Post (USA) wrote, "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is offering U.S. Marshals Service protection for abortion clinics and the doctors who staff them. It's the right call, but one that underscores the urgency of coming up with better solutions for the delivery of abortion services." Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation said, "What made Dr. Tiller unusual was that he specialized in seeing women who found out late in very wanted pregnancies that they were carrying fetuses with anomalies that were incompatible with life." For his patients, "there was really no good choice. They needed to terminate their pregnancies to protect their own health, and he provided both the emotional and physical care for women in that situation."

Illegal Abortions Have Deadly Toll in Tanzania: The New York Times (USA) reported June 1 on the links connecting a lack of contraception, restrictions outlawing abortion and a shortage of medical personnel to Tanzania's high maternal mortality rate.

Vietnam Makes Progress Toward MDGs: VOVNews (Vietnam) reported June 2 that after eight years of working to integrate the Millennium Development Goals into its economic development agenda, Vietnam has made substantial progress toward reducing poverty and promoting education and gender equality.

Renewed Calls to Honour Pledges on Reproductive Health and Rights: IPS reported on June 6, The Boston Globe (USA) published an op-ed by rights advocates Alica Al-Yamin and Mary Robinson on June 4, and The New York Times (USA) published an editorial May 30 on calls by reproductive health advocates for renewed attention to reproductive health as a human right. IPS reported on the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and its "groundbreaking shift in the approach to reproductive health: women's reproductive capacity was to be transformed from an object of population control to a matter of women's empowerment to exercise personal autonomy." The Boston Globe noted "As a new member of the Human Rights Council, the United States has the chance to lead the way in promoting a woman's right to go through pregnancy and childbirth in safety and, just as important, to back up that assertion with adequate funding commitments." The New York Times highlighted that far too many people are still dying of preventable causes because there is a lack of resources and argued, "Wealthy countries promised nearly a decade ago to help the world's poorest to emerge from the deepest poverty. This is the wrong time to stop."

*New Oral Contraceptive Pill Launched in Europe: On June 9, Healthcare professional websites Hay Pharma and featured articles regarding a new oral contraceptive pill launched in Europe. The pill, called Qlaira, delivers a hormone identical to that found naturally in a woman’s body. Dr Kate Worsley, Head of Medical Development at Marie Stopes International welcomed the increase in choice of contraceptive pill options, allowing women to ‘find an option that best suits her individual needs’.

New HIV Infection Rate Falls Among South Africa Teens: The Associated Press reported June 9 on a Human Sciences Research Council finding that the rate of new HIV infections has fallen dramatically among adolescents in South Africa. Olive Shisana, an author of the report, credited the decline to an increase in condom use among young men.

Obama Policy Moves Target Reproductive Health Policy: NPR featured an analysis June 9 by health correspondent Julie Rovner on Obama administration moves in recent months that relate to reproductive health and family planning. These include repeal of the Global Gag Rule, reinstatement of funding for UNFPA, moving to repeal the HHS Federal Refusal Rule and the selection of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. It also noted that next month's hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor will likely focus on abortion.

Zambia to Invest in Midwives: The Times of Zambia (Zambia) reported June 9 on a government-sponsored campaign titled "Investing in Midwives" that seeks to accelerate progress toward the health-related Millennium Development Goals, numbers 3, 4 and 5.

*Male Circumcision Partnership Launch: Widespread African media outlets covered the June 11 launch of the Male Circumcision Partnership, a massive scale-up of voluntary male circumcision services in Swaziland and Zambia. Population Services International and partners including Marie Stopes International estimate that the project will provide voluntary male circumcision services to nearly 650,000 men.

Report Urges East Timor to Decriminalize Abortion and Promote Contraception: The Associated Press reported June 11 on a report that recommended the government loosen restrictions on abortion and promote contraception in order to combat the country's high incidence of maternal mortality. It was sponsored by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund; the Alola Foundation; East Timor's Health Ministry; and the Graduate School for Health Practice at Charles Darwin University, Australia.

*Economic Benefits of Using LARCs Highlighted in Kenya: The Standard (Kenya) reported June 11 on Sino (a contraceptive implant and long acting reversible contraceptive method, or LARC) being offered by Marie Stopes Kenya, and funded by Family Health International and the Gates Foundations. The article considers the cost-effectiveness and benefits of the implant, after the head of The Division of Reproductive Health in Kenya presented a costing slide at a meeting regarding long-acting contraceptive methods.

Kenya Programme Seeks to Make Hospital Birth Affordable: IPS reported June 12 on the Kenyan government's Reproductive Health Output-Based Approach, which seeks to combat maternal mortality by increasing the number of women who give birth in hospitals. The programme provides low-cost vouchers for women seeking skilled care during delivery, as well as access to prenatal and postnatal services from accredited health clinics.

Health Experts Develop AU Plan of Action: IPS reported June 12 that public health experts met in Mozambique to develop a plan to implement comprehensive reproductive and sexual health services throughout the continent. The plan will be considered for ratification by the African Union when it meets in September.

UN Addresses Financial Crisis, Announces New Funds For Achieving Millennium Development Goals: IPS reported June 15, 23 and 27 and NPR reported June 15 on United Nations efforts to address development issues in the midst of the global economic crisis. At a UN General Assembly conference on the crisis, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon criticized Western governments for providing less foreign assistance while at the same time providing funds to prop up financial institutions. The conference itself drew criticism for a lack of explicit attention to gender issues and the effects of the crisis on women. June 15 also marked the launch of a new UN initiative to provide funding for countries' efforts to meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals, which target children's and mothers' health, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases.

US Teen Pregnancy Draws Concern: ABC News Primetime (USA) featured an hour-long report on June 17 exploring the experiences of teen parents. A June 18 New York Times (USA) editorial focused on factors that contribute to the U.S.'s high teen pregnancy rate: "According to a new report from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, contraceptive use by teens has declined while their sexual activity has remained unchanged. This is a worrisome shift-and it has bearing on the coming budget battle in Congress."

Study Finds 25 Percent of Men in South Africa Admit to Committing Rape: The Guardian (UK) reported June 18 on a study by South Africa's Medical Research Council (MRC) finding that, of men surveyed, a quarter admitted to having committed rape. "The social space for debating these gender issues is now smaller than it was a few years ago. We need our government to show political leadership in changing attitudes. We need South African men, from the top to the grassroots, to take responsibility," said study co-author Professor Rachel Jewkes.

Report Finds Unintended Births Rise in Nigeria: Voice of America (USA) reported June 17 that despite major advances in women's education from 1990 to 2005, unintended pregnancy, early marriage and early births have increased in Nigeria, according to a Guttmacher Institute study.

UN Human Rights Council Passes Resolution on Maternal Health: The Hudson Valley Press (USA) reported June 18 and The Lancet (UK) published an editorial June 27 on the UN Human Rights Council's passage of a landmark resolution that recognizes preventable maternal mortality and morbidity as a human-rights issue. The Lancet wrote "The move is important because a human-rights approach to maternal health places specific legal and ethical obligations on states, such as the establishment of effective mechanisms of accountability."

Pregnant Women Face Risks in Pakistan Conflict: The Statesman (India) reported June 22 on the added risks faced by pregnant women displaced by conflict in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province. The Huffington Post published a blog June 19 by Bill Ryan, UNFPA Regional Communications Adviser for Asia and the Pacific, who noted "The hardships of flight and camp life, compounded by restricted mobility, increase the normally high risks women face during childbirth in this part of the world."

Politics and Women's Health in Kansas After Dr. Tiller: National Public Radio (USA) reported June 22 on the repercussions of the murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller on women's health and activism related to abortion rights in Wichita, Kansas. It has been at the centre of the abortion debate for decades, but since Dr. Tiller's death activists wonder what will happen. Dr. Tiller was the only abortion provider in Wichita and the clinic he ran closed after his death.

US House Committee Approves Bill Increasing Funds for Family Planning: Congressional Quarterly Weekly (USA) reported June 22 that House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee approved $50 billion for international affairs programmes, including $648 million - $50 million above the request - for "basic reproductive health services," while retaining a ban on the use of US funds to provide abortions.

Reducing Maternal Mortality in Nigeria: The Daily Triumph (Nigeria) published an op-ed by Cyrus Nyengibi Lilian on June 23 highlighting the broad causes of maternal deaths and outlined strategies for combating them, including improving access to medical care, including delivery care and safe abortion.

*Department of Health Denies Cervical Screening Equality to English Women: Widespread UK media, including The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Guardian and The Times reported, June 24, on the UK’s Department of Health announcement that women under the age of 25 will not be routinely screened for cervical cancer in England, despite the fact that the national screening programme for women in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales begins at 20. This followed months of high-profile campaigning initiated by Marie Stopes International and others urging that the screening start age to be lowered, particularly after the sad death of celebrity Jade Goody from cervical cancer at the age of 27. Marie Stopes International announced its disappointment in the Government’s decision. Liz Davies, director of UK and Europe at MSI, also featured on ITV news and BBC Radio 1.

Few Rural Women Using Family Planning Services in Afghanistan: IRIN reported June 24 that, while family planning services are available in more than 90 percent of health facilities in Afghanistan, few women use them. Experts interviewed cited factors such as taboos around sex and contraception and a shortage of female health care workers.

Appeals Court Upholds Virginia Abortion Restriction: The Washington Post (USA) reported June 25 that a federal appeals court upheld, by a 6-5 vote, a law making it a criminal offense for doctors to perform a rare procedure often known as "partial birth" abortion.

Abortion Restrictions Imposed in Slovakia: IPS reported June 26 on new limits on women's access to abortion. These include: reporting requirements on doctors who perform abortions, limits on the time period when women can undergo the procedure and increasing the age at which women can obtain abortion without parental consent from 16 to 18.

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.


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