“Since Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1948, it has been wracked by armed conflicts and fragile ceasefires with civilians and ethnic rebels,” and “[t]he health of Myanmar’s women has been one of the biggest casualties,” GlobalPost reports. Though recent news coverage has focused on political reform in the nation, “little attention has been paid to a more immediate need: affordable, decent health care,” the news service states. The “military junta that ruled the country for a half century spent very little on health care,” little international aid has come into the country, and “the government restricts where and how aid organizations can operate, blocking the delivery of medical services,” the news service writes, adding, “The result has been a health care system that in conflict areas, does not exist, and in large cities, is too expensive for ordinary people, according to experts inside Myanmar and on the Thai border.”
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).
“As members of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, we call on the negotiators at the Rio+20 conference to ensure that reproductive health and voluntary family planning have a central role in any comprehensive strategy for sustainable development,” Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil; Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice; Joy Phumaphi, former minister of health for Botswana and former vice-president of human development at the World Bank; Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and former director-general of the World Health Organization; Fred Sai, former president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation and former director of Population at the World Bank; and Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, former deputy president of South Africa; and Jenny Shipley, former prime minister of New Zealand and vice-president of the Club of Madrid, write in a letter published in the Guardian on Friday.
“USAID promotes Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy as a vital family planning intervention that helps ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times in a woman’s life,” Maureen Norton, healthy timing and spacing technical adviser for USAID, writes in USAID’s IMPACTblog. “A USAID analysis found that, by preventing closely spaced births, family planning could save the lives of more than 1.6 million children under five annually,” she notes. Norton outlines “three key programmatic actions to strengthen family planning as an essential intervention for child survival,” including educating families on pregnancy timing, expanding the type of available contraceptives, and enacting “policies to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.” She concludes, “Increasing access to family planning is essential to help women … and their children survive and stay healthy” (6/19).
In this post in the Guardian’s “Development Talk Point” series, contributors Claire Provost and Jaz Cummins ask readers to weigh in on the issue of family planning and development, asking, “How has such a taboo topic become a global priority? What’s driving world leaders’ growing interest in women’s bodies? And what’s at stake in these debates?” They write, “We’ll discuss these questions — and more — in this month’s global development podcast, and are looking for your comments to shape the discussion” (6/19).
Agence France-Presse examines the abortion debate in Morocco, where “voices calling for a repeal of the [country’s] ban on abortion are growing louder,” according to the news service. “The debate over abortion is just the latest front of an ongoing conflict between conservative supporters of traditional values and more liberal, reform-minded campaigners,” the news service writes. “‘We are going in all directions. It is difficult to move forward with a conservative government,’ [Fauzia Assouli, president of the Federation of the Democratic League of Women’s Rights] told AFP,” the news service notes. “But at the same time, she said, there was a growing sense of awareness, a sense of momentum among activists,” AFP writes. The news service adds, “A national congress will be held on June 12 in Rabat, under the auspices of the Moroccan Association for the Fight against Clandestine Abortion, headed by Professor Chafik Chraibi,” a renowned gynecologist in the country (Mamarbachi, 6/4).
Politico examines the Republican Party’s stance on abortion policy compared with abortion laws in other countries worldwide, stating, “No other nation in the Western world restricts abortion as severely as the Republican Party is calling for in its draft platform.” The article cites statistics regarding other nations’ abortion-related laws from the U.N. report “World Abortion Policies 2011.” According to Politico, “Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, says he does not support a ban on abortions under any circumstances. He has said it should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. But the Republican National Committee slapped him down.” The article continues, “‘This is the platform of the Republican Party,’ committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC on Tuesday. ‘It’s not the platform of Mitt Romney'” (Brinkley, 8/27).
Bloomberg News examines family planning in the Philippines, where “[o]ne in five women of reproductive age … have an unmet family planning need, the U.N. Population Fund says, leading to unintended pregnancies and population growth twice the Asian average.” The article focuses on a reproductive health bill in the country’s congress that would allow for “free or subsidized contraception, especially for the poor.” The bill “has been re-filed and blocked in each three-year congressional term since it was introduced in legislature 14 years ago amid opposition from the Catholic Church,” according to Bloomberg. However, with support from President Benigno Aquino, the bill “may be put to a vote in congress in three months,” the news service notes (Khan/Aquino, 3/27).
“Opponents of birth control don’t just want to limit access in the U.S., they want to slash U.S. support for international family planning programs. It’s a perennial debate, and it’s about to start all over again,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget “demonstrates the value the administration places on family planning,” as “funding for international family planning programs is preserved,” she writes, noting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent testimony to Congress about the budget proposal, in which “she consistently reiterated the importance of development as a key pillar of our foreign policy and national security strategy” and “the administration’s focus on women and girls as central to these goals.” Cooney concludes, “The president’s budget protects U.S. investments in family planning programs around the world. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure those funds remain intact” (3/5).
In this Huffington Post “Black Voices” opinion piece, Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responds to an announcement by the WHO in February that the agency would not revise its contraception guidelines for women living with and at risk of HIV infection based on a “study suggesting that hormonal contraception increases women’s risk of [acquiring and] transmitting HIV to their partners.” A panel found “there was not enough evidence” to support women abandoning hormonal contraception and concluded there should be “no restrictions on hormonal contraception,” Cullins states.