Archive for the ‘Women's Rights’ Category

Punching Back at Pro-Abortion Advocates

In Abortion, Family Planning, Human Rights, UN, Women's Rights on October 13, 2011 at 4:50 pm

“If you tell a lie loud enough, long enough, people will believe it.” 

So goes the adage that exemplifies the approach that the pro-abortion and anti-family advocates at the UN and in the international arena are using to promote worldwide abortion.  The notion that “Abortion is an International Human Right!” is continually advanced by individuals, non-governmental groups, and UN agencies who wish to deceive, manipulate, and coerce countries to legalize abortion and alter their laws to reflect this false understanding.

In an effort designed to inject the truth back into the dialogue and to give support to diplomats and policy makers from countries that are being bullied with this misinformation, the San Jose Articles have been introduced.    Crafted in Costa Rica last March by legal professionals, doctors, scholars, public health officials, and experts in international policy from around the globe, these articles lay out some basic principles and understandings:

*    From conception each unborn life is a human being and is entitled to recognition of their inherent dignity and protection of their inalienable human rights.

*    There is no right to abortion, either by way of treaty obligation or under customary international law.

*    In fact, under basic principles of treaty interpretation, the state has a responsibility to protect the unborn child from abortion.
To see a complete list of the articles, go here and for accompanying notes and clarifications, here.

Why is this document important?

As Robert P. George, distinguished law professor at Princeton University and member of the drafting committee states:

“It is simply not true that international instruments or international human rights law includes, contains, sanctions or in any way condones the idea that there is an international right to abortion.  That is sheer manipulation.”  He continues that “it is a partisan desire to advance the belief in the justifiability of killing the unborn.”

During the UN press conference releasing the San Jose Articles, George made it clear that this is also an effort to maintain the integrity of all international law by not allowing it to be misused in such a fashion.

We, at United Families International, can personally attest to the fact that policy makers of countries, particularly developing countries, are regularly being told that legalizing abortion is inevitable because the international legal instruments that their country has signed on to demand it.  There is an attempt to infuse the idea that “abortion is a right” in to every UN dialogue, document negotiation, and non-UN gathering that is even remotely related to social policy – most especially into the reduction of maternal mortality discussions.

The release of the San Jose Articles is particularly timely as the “abortion as a right” meme has been ramped up in recent weeks as two major UN pro-abortion reports were issued recently, one in Geneva and one in New York.   Both reports received wide support from the UN Secretary General.  The Report of the High Commissioner of Human Rights falsely claimed that States have an obligation to address “unsafe abortion:  – the implication being that states have an obligation to legalize abortion.  Among other untrue statements related to abortion, the author of the Report of Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of health, states:

“Criminal laws penalizing and restricting induced abortion are the paradigmatic examples of impermissible barriers to the realization of women’s right to health and must be eliminated.”


“States must take measures to ensure that legal and safe abortion services are available, accessible, and of good quality.”

Sounds like this Special Rapporteur not only wants governments to legalize abortion, but have taxpayers pay for them too!

According to the pro-abortion organization Human Rights Watch, the UN treaty known as CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) has directed 93 countries to legalize abortion.   The CEDAW compliance committee who issues these edicts has no power to do so, but it doesn’t stop them from trying to bully countries that don’t feel they have the clout or the tools to stand against this form of coercion.

Giving countries the tools to stop this type of misinformation and harassment is what the San Jose Articles are all about.  Now a public policy official or UN diplomat who is told “your country must legalize abortion” can, with authority,  reply: “That is incorrect and here is why.”  They will not be misled.  They will not only be knowledgeable of the fact that there is no right to abortion contained in any international documents, but will have the voice of over 30 highly-regarded international experts in law, medicine, and public policy behind them.

We at United Families International join with those who crafted the San Jose Articles in working to stop this type of falsehood from gaining further traction.  We are grateful to those who are willing to step forward and state the facts so clearly and compellingly.  We believe that the San Jose Articles are a “game changer” and we are thrilled to be part of the pro-family coalition that is promoting them.  To see the impact that is already occurring from the San Jose Articles go here:

Queen’s cousin campaigns to block ‘human right’ to abortion

The world doesn’t have a right to abortion

United Families International is dedicated to protecting unborn children and it is a battle that we engage in virtually every day.  We will continue to raise awareness on this issue and invite you to share this very important development with others.  Spread the good news.


Carol Soelberg
President, United Families International

Are Working Moms Happier?

In Families, Feminism, motherhood, Values, Women's Rights on September 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm

by Rachel Allison

The title “Why Working Moms Are Happier” was a taunt that caught my attention.  The article by Laurie Tarkan first suggests that “women who believe they can do it all—the successful career, the clean house, a home-cooked meal every night—may be more unhappy than working women who assume that they can’t be a supermom, according to a new study.”

This “study” found that “those who as young adults consistently agreed with the notion that women could successfully combine employment and family care—were at a higher risk for depression compared with working moms who felt it would be difficult for women to raise a family while working.

I don’t have a problem with these findings.  My husband reminds me periodically that “the discontent we feel comes when our expectations are too high and as a result, are not realized. This “study” states the obvious. Working women who have faced reality by recognizing the time and energy commitment a career takes from home and family are simply being realistic.

Several years ago my sister-in-law asked that I substitute for her at the local high school while she attended to some serious family matters.  My children were all in school and so I agreed to help her out.  I would be working 29 hours a week. My first thoughts were, (just like the young adults in the study,) “I can keep up with everything and everybody and still work 29 hours at the local high school.”  I quickly recognized that I was wrong.  And do you know what hurt most?  Not my home.  I was determined to keep it clean and orderly.  Not my meals.  I became a “crock-pot diva.”  What hurt was my one on one time with my children.  It was the precious reading time we had spent together around the breakfast table…So after several months of this time commitment, I was thrilled to return to full-time mom and homemaker.

The section of the “study” I take issue with? “ Working moms had lower levels of depression than stay-at-home moms, but Ms. Tarkan’s silence on the “why” is what concerned me…and so I read other studies on this topic.

The why? One study suggests, “Women who stay at home are more isolated.  They don’t have the adult stimulation they would at the workplace.  They don’t have to get dressed and get out of the house.  Being confined to the same four walls day in and day out can have negative effects”…the key to beating the doldrums in this second study is that we all need “BALANCE.”  This balance is certainly attainable for those who choose to be stay-at-home moms.  In fact, balance may be more easily reached because stay-at-home moms set their own schedule.  It takes self-discipline and planning, but as we rise to the level of “Home and Family CEO” the challenges and rewards are exciting and innumerable.  Children make demands of our time, but so do bosses. Housework can be time consuming, but so can work projects.

No matter what course a woman chooses, we would do well to remember the importance of creativity and the need for growth.  Because stay-at-home Moms have more flexibility with their schedules, they may have more opportunity to pursue personal interests. They can take a class at the local community college.  They can get involved in politics, PTA, local charities, and musical presentations.  I have seen young stay-at-home moms organize and orchestrate neighborhood theatrical productions for the children who are out of school for summer break.  The possibilities are endless…and the rewards are invaluable.

All three of my daughters are stay-at-home moms.  One has taught herself photography, and has built up a little part-time business. It doesn’t take up much of her time, and she loves it.  Another daughter played college volleyball. She organizes volleyball clinics once or twice a year for the young girls in her neighborhood.  She looks forward to sharing her passion with these athlete wannabes. The third is actively involved in her neighborhood homeowner’s association and has made friends with most of the homeowners in her neighborhood. Plus she’s very involved in local politics.  Are they depressed?   They don’t have time to be depressed.

Ms. Tarkan states, “One heartening piece of news is that no matter how guilty you feel or how insurmountable your tasks seem, working is good for your mental health.” I agree!  But the work that I consider good for mental health is cleaning and organizing a closet, painting an old piece of furniture, sewing a costume, or planting a garden…and guess what?  No guilt!

Hollywood wrong…again

In adoption, father, motherhood, Women's Rights on May 19, 2011 at 10:12 pm

By Carol Soelberg

Remember last summer and the controversy surrounding actress Jennifer Aniston?  While promoting her new movie “The Switch,” Aniston had commented: 

“Women are realizing it more and more that you don’t have to settle.  They don’t have to fiddle with a man to have that child.” 

Bill O’Reilly, Fox News commentator, thought that it was an ill-considered comment and chastised her with:

“She’s throwing her message out to 12 year-olds and 13 year-olds that ‘Hey you don’t need a guy.  You don’t need a dad.’”

 O’Reilly finished by calling the actress’ message “destructive to our society.”

Celebrity feud aside, I found it reassuring and encouraging that a large share of the general public agreed with O’Reilly.  Family breakdown is not something to be encouraged or celebrated.  I thought of that little brouhaha as I read through two newly released reports discussing family breakdown and poverty.

What’s happening internationally?

 A recent report authored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an alliance of richer countries, released its “first ever report on family well-being” on April 27, 2011.

According to the report, one in four children in the United States is being raised by a single parent.  This is a percentage that has been on the rise and is higher than other developed countries, according to the report.  Of the 27 industrialized countries studied by the OECD, the U.S. had 25.8 percent of children being raised by a single parent, compared with an average of 14.9 percent across the other countries.

Ireland was second (24.3 percent), followed by New Zealand (23.7 percent). Greece, Spain, Italy and Luxemburg had among the lowest percentages of children in single-parent homes.  Experts point to a variety of factors to explain the high U.S. figure, including a cultural shift toward greater acceptance of single-parent child rearing, but all seem to be derived from familial breakdown, drug use, crime, domestic violence, fatherlessness, just to name a few..

The first chapter of the report is titled “Families are Changing” and contains material on family structure and child poverty. It notes as “a particular worry that in most OECD countries, poverty risks have shifted over the past 20 years towards families with children…” A major reason for this is the steady increase in single parent households.

“The economic vulnerability of families is linked to parents’ incapacity to reconcile employment and parenthood,” says the report. That joblessness is the main cause of poverty should not come as a shock to anyone.  However, joblessness is more likely where there is only one parent, usually the mother. The report does acknowledge does acknowledge that two parents are better than one:

“Given that joblessness greatly increases the chances of a household being poor, couple households can act as a protection for children against poverty as such households are less likely to be jobless.”

 Unfortunately, projections up to 2025-2030 suggest that in almost all countries single parent households will continue to increase both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of all households with children.

Hopefully, this report from the OECD will inspire policy makers to value cultural norms, traditions and laws that re-enforce the family while realizing that a sound economy depends ultimately on the health of the family unit. Policymakers can advance an anti-poverty framework that allows civil society to flourish and individuals to thrive.

More support for strong traditional families

In a recent report issued by the Heritage Foundation,  Heritage Fellow Ryan Messmore states:

“The goal of overcoming poverty is not simply to eliminate need, but to enable people to thrive – that is, to empower them to live meaningful lives and contribute to society. Thriving is much more than a full stomach and a place to sleep. People tend to flourish in the context of healthy relationships with their families and communities. Suffering and breakdown often result when those relationships are absent or unhealthy.”

In contrast to the OECD study that calls for more socialized welfare programs and spending to replace the absence of solid families, such programs do not work and actually are counter productive. Further citing Heritage Foundation,

“Despite spending more than $16 trillion on means-tested welfare since the War on Poverty began in 1964, the official U.S. poverty rate has remained largely unchanged. During the same period, the nation’s unwed birth rate increased from 7 percent to 41 percent.”

 With more than half of all households in poverty led by single mothers, the breakdown in marriage and family over the past 40 years has devastated the well-being of thousands of women and their children and significantly hindered their chances of escaping poverty.

Government handouts can never replace the broad array of benefits derived from maintaining a cohesive family unit.  Effective responses to poverty must recognize the importance of foundational relationships like marriage, family, community, and work.

Any cultural message communicating that “marriage is optional” needs to be corrected.   If we ignore this obvious misinformation, we do so at the peril of our children and our society’s future.  Please join us as we strengthen our own families and help us to spread the message  that marriage matters!

UFI Reader Poll: Do men earn more than women for equal work?

In Families, Feminism, motherhood, Polls, Women's Rights on April 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Here’s the question:

“Do you believe the statement “women earn only 77 percent of what men earn for equal work?”

Here is how UFI readers responded:

15 percent       Yes, and things need to change!

19 percent       Yes, but there’s more to this story.

63 percent       No, that’s baloney!

 3 percent        Don’t know

April 12th was noted as “Equal Pay Day” by the National Committee for Pay Equity.  According to the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority and other feminist groups this is the day is noteworthy because women have to work that far into a calendar year before they are able to earn what men already earned the year before.

But the vast majority of UFI readers aren’t buying it – including the folks who said “no, that’s baloney” and those who voted for “Yes, but there’s more to this story.”  There is definitely a lot more to the story and we’re going to be covering some of the factors that go into the calculation of the male/female wage gap.  But you’ll have to check back with us on Monday for our Myth Buster series where we’re going to address this topic at length.

Here are just a few factors:

  • Women on average work fewer hours
  • Women choose different professions
  • Men are more willing to relocate and travel, in addition to willingness to work more dangerous and dirty jobs.

Come back on Monday to see more!

Day 2: Mothers at the UN

In Feminism, motherhood, UN, Women's Rights on February 23, 2011 at 10:51 am

Mothers at the UN

Dear Friend of the Family:

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) begins today in New York and United Families International has four representatives attending:  Jean Bentley, Anne Stewart, Margy Barker and Marcia Barlow.

To give you a flavor of what these women might encounter, we share a short experience from Linda Ash who is a member of UFI’s executive board.  Linda and her husband Cecil Ash spent 3 years in NY attending United Nations commissions and building relationships with country delegates.  Their work and experience continues to be a great boon to our UN efforts today. Here’s Linda’s report:


When a major conference is held at the United Nations, men and women from all over the world come to New York City to support a particular cause or share their grievances.  Many of them plan what are called “side events,” and these side events are calendared and well publicized in the hope that conference participants will attend them.

In 2007 when I was attending the conference, Commission on the Status of Women, I walked into one such side event.

Five attractive, articulate, well-dressed women, all from Sweden, had traveled to New York City to ask that their roles as “mothers” and their desire to be  “stay-at-home mothers” be acknowledged as meaningful and respectable, even crucial to society.

Their particular grievance was that unless Swedish women are working outside of their homes, they are scorned as non-contributors to society, even as parasites living off of those who are willing to work for the betterment of the country and its economy.

One woman shared with us the statistics showcasing Sweden’s growth and its successful economy.   She added, however, that the statistics that are not so openly publicized are the ones relating to child suicide and the rampant depression among women who are told that they can and should “do it all.”  In other words, women are told that to be a successful member of society, they must be able to keep their households and families functioning smoothly and efficiently, all the while pursuing a career.   She said that government call centers have been provided for depressed children who are at home, but added that the statistics relating to the call centers do not show a reduction in the suicide rates.

As these five young women expressed their frustrations and their desires to be considered contributing members of society while staying home to raise their children, my heart ached for them and the children growing up in such a culture.

Those who attended the UN side event were as frustrated with the situation as the five women living it in their home country. The debate was spirited, and the conversation very supportive of their plight.

At one point, I spoke up saying, “We can have it all…and we can do it all.  After all, we are women.  However, there is a time and a season to all things.  There is a season for us to pursue an education and to develop our talents and skills.  There is a season to have children and to love and support and teach and guide them until they can travel through life on their own.  There is also a time and a season for a career and self-indulgence, but these seasons of our lives do not run concurrently.  Usually, these seasons require spacing and follow in sequential order.  Utilizing this concept is the only way we can have it all.  Focusing on the demands that are most important to us at the particular season of our lives brings joy and satisfaction to everyone involved.   It is when we try to do things out of season that our efforts are frustrated and we experience failure.”

These words are not my words; neither are they original. I cannot take credit for them.   They are found in Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3.  But, they brought the entire room to their feet in applause.  The truth always rings true to those who have ears to hear.

As I compare my experiences as a mother to the desires of my Swedish friends, I find myself very supportive of their perspective. In a recent article by Julie B. Beck, she referred to a mother’s role as a “Lioness at the gate of the home…. She guards that gate, and the things that matter to her are the things that matter to her family.”  I have thought about that analogy many times.  As I have reflected upon the years when my five active children were still at home, I can see that her comparison is extremely insightful.  My thoughts have turned to the countless times with each of my children when, if I had not been available or vigilant or willing to “snarl and claw,” my children could have been “carried away” by the influences that exist to destroy their productive lives.  Anyone having had teenage children will know exactly to what I am referring.  Teenagers growing up in our society need a lioness standing guard, not a pussy cat, or worse yet, a distracted pussy cat.  Children desperately needed mothers in the home to provide direction, encouragement and protection as they develop personal maturity and defenses against a very permissive and dangerous world.


UFI sincerely thanks our CSW representatives for the sacrifice of time and money to attend the commission this year.  We know it is our continued vigilance at these commissions that offers the support and persuasion to help secure a safe future for families.  We also thank you for your continued financial support for these great causes!

Day 1: New York, UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

In Media, UN, Women's Rights on February 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

United Families International has four representatives attending the Commission this year.  They are joining approximately 4,000 women from around the world.  It is a very colorful place to be – not only in terms of seeing the wonderful clothing worn by women from around the globe – but in terms of “colorful” comments and expressions of ideology and worldview.  We plan to spend the next week giving you an insider’s perspective.  Here’s the first installment.

The U.S. Mission Briefing

We managed to get our name on the “list” to attend the U.S. Delegation’s briefing held in the newly remodeled U.S. Mission right smack across the street from the UN headquarters.  The U.S. delegation’s roster has a smattering of “experts” from all walks of life.  The delegation is headed by Melanne Verveer who served as Chief of Staff to the former First Lady Hillary Clinton and includes such notables as Dr. Mae Jemison (former NASA Astronaut) and Geena Davis (yes, the movie star).

The delegation each took a few minutes to discuss their feelings about the CSW theme:  “Access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology.”  Here are a couple of interesting excerpts from their remarks:

Dr. Mae Jemison (the former astronaut):

“Men think more highly of themselves while women and girls think less highly of themselves.  The gap is huge and it’s a problem.  Men are coming up with things that they think are more brilliant than they actually are…”

Geena Davis (referencing the negative influence of media on females – she has started a foundation to address “Gender in Media” with its focus on girls age 11 and younger):

“The more girls watch TV, the less options they feel they have in life.  The more boys watch TV, the more sexist they become.  Only 7 percent of movies are ‘gender balanced.’”

Melanne Verveer conducted an ongoing dialogue on “why we should ratify CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women):

“I think part of the problem is that the acronym “CEDAW” means nothing to people.  We need to somehow pound it into people’s heads that it is the ‘Women’s Human Rights Treaty.’”

Sorry Melanne…  the problem with CEDAW is that it is a dangerous treaty that threatens U.S. sovereignty  and the U.S. and its women stand to gain nothing from its ratification.  That has been the case for over 30 years.


France Bans Burqa: UFI poll question results

In Religious Freedom, Women's Rights on October 4, 2010 at 5:50 am

The UFI Poll question for the week yielded what we thought was a rather surprising response from our readers.  This question is one that strikes at the heart of religious expression and thus religious freedom.

“Do you support or oppose France’s recent ban on the wearing of a burqa?” (Burqa:  outerwear that covers the entire body worn by some Muslim women.)

Support                                87 percent

Oppose                                  13 percent

Can’t decide                        0 percent

Polls say most French voters support the ban on the burqa, a term generically used for the niqab – which covers the face, but leaves the eyes open – as well as the traditional burqa, or all-enveloping garment with a mesh.The legislation forbids face-covering Muslim veils in all public places in France and calls for a euro150 ($185) fine or the taking of a citizenship class, or both.

In 2004, France banned the wearing of the headscarf (hijab) and the display of any overt religious symbols in schools.  We are told that includes the wearing of a collar by a Catholic priest and the traditional clothing worn by nuns. Although in France, the wearing of the headscarf and other religious symbols are, for now, allowed in public areas (outside of schools) that is not, however,  the case in the country of Turkey.   See what can result as a country aggressively pushes towards “secularism” at the cost of religious expression.

The Soft-Blue Scarf—Symbol of Oppression

“Women’s rights will never be fully realized until we end the suffocating influence of religion.”  Or try this:  “Secularization is the answer to the oppression of women.”   Versions of those lines are regularly repeated at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Rabeea * doesn’t believe it, however.   She tentatively walked towards us as we sat on the bench outside a large UN conference room—a room where delegates from her native country of Turkey had just reported to the General Assembly on the stellar progress of Turkey in giving equal rights to women.  Her long gray sweater was wrapped tightly around her thin body and her beautiful face was framed by a soft-blue scarf—a soft-blue scarf, the only outward symbol of her inner devotion to God.  Her intelligent eyes shone brightly as she politely asked if I had a few minutes.

Her voice waivered just a little as she began her practiced speech.  “I come here to represent the Muslim women of my country who cannot speak for themselves, the women of my country who cannot go to school, cannot get a job, cannot hold a public office; the women of my country who cannot have any semblance of a normal life.  Why can they not have any of these things?  Because of this,” and her hand reached up and brushed the edge of her soft-blue scarf.  She continued “I was one of the lucky ones who was able to leave my country, get educated, have a life, but two-thirds of the women are not so fortunate.  They must choose between devotion to their religion or a normal life in Turkey.”

She explained that in 1997 the government of Turkey, in an effort to secularize and “modernize” the country, banned the wearing of headscarves in public.  You cannot go to school if you wear a headscarf, employers cannot legally give you a job if you wear a headscarf.  Read more

Watch out for IVAWA! (International Violence Against Women Act)

In Senate, Women's Rights on August 4, 2010 at 6:12 am

There’s a new piece of U.S. legislation in the works that purports to help women, but the reality is far different.  The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), Senate Bill 2982, has a great sounding name.  Who, of course, could oppose protecting women against violence?   Well that’s what the bill’s sponsors want you to think.

Here are a few things that the bill, if passed, could do:

  • help international feminist groups push for U.S. ratification of the unnecessary and dangerous Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)—a treaty that is so radical and unhelpful to women that during the last three decades, regardless of which party controlled either the Senate or the White House (or both), the U.S. Senate has declined to ratify.
  • Aid and abet the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as they give support to China’s forced abortion and sterilization efforts (now that’s ending violence against women isn’t it!).
  • Create a new office for “Women’s Global Issues” (more tax dollars at work!) which will most certainly have as one of its main goals the strengthening of “reproductive and sexual rights” and will work to make sure that abortion on demand is achieved worldwide.
  • Has no language which would ban the funding of prostitution and sex trafficking thus subjecting more women and girls to degradation and suffering.

Read that partial list and tell us where the violence against women and their unborn children is ended by this piece of legislation. This bill could come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sometime this week.  Contact the committee and tell them that women deserve better.

“Celebrate Motherhood” Banned: The Photos

In Feminism, motherhood, Women's Rights on June 15, 2010 at 5:45 am

Last week we told you about the “Women Deliver” conference held in Washington D.C. where a typical conference bag (the kind of bag that is handed out for free at conferences all over the world) was confiscated by conference organizers.  What was written on the bag that was so offensive that it was banned?  Nothing more than the simple phrase “Celebrate Motherhood.”  May we say again:  The supposed “pro-choice” movement is about anything but choice.

On the last day, the National Right to Life Federation (NRTLF) stood outside the convention center handing out bags emblazoned with the slogan “Celebrate Motherhood” to conference-goers. The bags contained fetal models and information on proven maternal mortality reduction strategies. Desperate to shut out any pro-life messages, security guards and conference staffers barred the front entrance, demanded to look inside conference-goers parcels and confiscated the offending bags right out of the hands of individuals, despite objections. Stunned by the actions of the conference staff, one NRTLF volunteer rhetorically asked “Isn’t this supposed to be a conference to help mothers?” (reported by Samantha Singson)

We thought you might be interested in seeing some photos, courtesy of our friends at National Right to Life.

A conference official blocking the path of individual carrying “Celebrate Motherhood” bag.

Photo of “threatening” bag.

Officials confiscating the bags.

Content of bags:  brochure, DVD, “Celebrate Motherhood” candy bar, and replica of pre-born baby.

Women’s health advocates pushed to conceal drop in Maternal Mortality Rates

In Abortion, AIDS, Birth Rate, Women's Rights on April 19, 2010 at 1:47 pm

A new study released online today reveals some surprising news: maternal mortality rates have dropped worldwide!

The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, found that the number of women dying from childbirth or pregnancy dropped from about 526,300 in 1980 to 342,900 in 2008. This is welcomed news after decades of reports showing little to no improvement in maternal mortality rates.

This new report is believed to be more accurate than studies released in the past. Researchers analyzed pregnancy and childbirth related deaths in 181 countries from 1980 to 2008, gathering around three times more information than previous research. According to Dr. Horton, editor of The Lancet, the new study used both better data and better statistical methods.

Not everyone is thrilled with the news, though. According to the New York Times, various women’s health organizations attempted to pressure The Lancet into delaying publication of the report, fearing it would negatively impact their cause.

“Dr. Horton said the advocates, whom he declined to name, wanted the new information held and released only after certain meetings about maternal and child health had already taken place.

He said the meetings included one at the United Nations this week, and another to be held in Washington in June, where advocates hope to win support for more foreign aid for maternal health from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other meetings of concern to the advocates are the Pacific Health Summit in June, and the United Nations General Assembly meeting in December.”

Given the importance of maternal mortality to the international advancement of reproductive health services (i.e. abortion), concern on the part of some organizations is understandable. The tragic number of deaths worldwide due to pregnancy and childbirth has been an incredibly powerful advocacy tool in securing funding for reproductive health services worldwide. Noted improvement in maternal mortality might make that funding more difficult to secure, or at least inspire more scrutiny of what is and is not working and why.

The study does suggest some interesting answers to these questions. The study reports numerous causes for the improvement, such as decreases in fertility, higher incomes, better education for women, and higher numbers of skilled birth attendants.

Most interesting, however, is the connection between AIDS and maternal mortality. According to the study about 60,000 pregnant women died from HIV/AIDS in 2008. If these deaths are removed form the final calculation, there were 281,500 maternal deaths in 2008, rather than 342,900. That is a fairly big difference.

This suggests to us that the key to reducing maternal mortality rates is not reducing the number of pregnancies, but more importantly, improving health education and health care services.


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