Family planning, contraception, and pregnancy

While reading this article, I came across a link to an incredible tool used to map access to basic family planning, sexual health, and reproductive health impacts. It shows the impacts of unplanned pregnancy (which account for roughly 50% of unplanned pregnancies in the USA each year), demonstrates the factors influencing this high number, shows the outcome of those pregnancies, the cost to public funding, and gives state-by-state suggestions for how to improve these numbers.

The Guttmacher Institute also has information on abortion, contraceptionpublic funding for contraception, teen pregnancy rates,  sexual health education, and so much more.

It’s definately worth checking out and is an incredible resource for anyone interested in learning about sexual health and family planning in the USA.

If anyone has information on similar databases for other countries please feel free to link them here.

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Democracy, freedom, apologies and rights

‘Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.’

What kind of image does that bring up for you? One where citizens have the right to choose what happens in their country, with themselves? That’s what I picture. It’s not one where other nations determine the rule of law, rights, freedoms; it’s not one governed with weapons, fear, or oppression.

It is also not grant one nation the right or ability to impose views or beliefs onto another person or nation; it does not reign superior over any other thoughts, actions, or systems of beliefs. It simply one option.

I believe that it is inherently un-democratic to enforce ‘democratic’ beliefs on other nations by force, economic sanctions, tied aid, or any other means. I believe it is inherently un-democratic to invade other nations for the ‘sake of democracy.’

Now, I understand that ‘military interventions’ have the unique ability to stimulate the economy; particularly the economy of such nations that have large investments in weaponry; but it halts and harms the economies of the nations that are invaded, devastated, and destroyed.

Now, does having these beliefs make me un-democratic? No. Does believing this make me anti-USA? No. Even if I chose to protest or partake in a protest? No, still in the clear.

Then why must singers, performers, actors, etc. apologize for doing this very thing and/or risk being banned from the country?? Isn’t it democratic for them to be able to voice their opinions and act on those opinions? Particularly if those voices and actions are causing no harm. Why must all ‘leaders’ and ‘role-models’ dissent to popular opinion? Aren’t they simply doing what the definition of ‘democracy’ encourages them to do: have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives?

Humanity: what it means and why we can’t lose it

The Case Against Killer Robots, sounds like the title for a sci-fi meets detective movie doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, its not. It is a real report written by Human Rights Watch depicting the development of robotic machinery that require no human involvement in the warfare part of war, which could be finalized in as little as twenty years. International humanitarian law has found they this type of machinery would be unable to distinguish between civilians and armed forces and therefore violates such laws.

Not surprisingly the USA seems to be taking the lead in the development of such weaponry and the US Department of Defence has written that it ‘envisions unmanned systems seamlessly operating with manned systems while gradually reducing the degree of human control and decision making required for the unmanned portion of the force structure.’ Sound terrifying? It is.

This would essentially restrict the need for nations to have human involvement in war, which would reduce the thought to humanity given before invading other nations. However, this would only happen for countries with the research capabilities and funding to invest in such technologies and would increase deaths and civilian deaths for other nations.

You’d think that if we have the technology, resources, and intellectual ability to literally make autonomous robot killing machines we would have it in us to not fight. I bet the money the USA uses to make one  of those machiens could end poverty in their own country. . .

Contraception is a Human Right

We have found that there are no mental health consequences of abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. There are other interesting findings: even later abortion is safer than childbirth and women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term are three times more likely than women who receive an abortion to be below the poverty level two years later.

That is a quote from the researchers who are two years in to a five year study abortion – specifically the first scientific study which looks at what happens to women who have been denied abortions. This study has been following 956 women who sought abortions, 182 of which were denied. This study takes place in the USA but I believe much of the information can be extrapolated to other nations.

I find it fascinating that less than halfway into the study researchers are already able to debunk many of the common reasons why women are denied abortions and protestors push for pro-life national agendas. Firstly, abortion does not cause mental illness. Secondly, abortion does not cause drug use. Particularly when combined with the emotional distress of carrying an unwanted child to term. In fact, the study found that giving birth to an unwanted child caused more physical damage than an abortion: “There were no severe complications after abortion; after birth complications included seizure, fractured pelvis, infection and hemorrhage. We find no differences in chronic health conditions at 1 week or one year after seeking abortion.”

What I also found interesting was that only 11% of those who were denied abortions put the child up for adoption and that there are higher rates of putting children up for adoption among those with a history of drug abuse. While there are plenty of people who desperately want to adopt children, particularly from within their home country, adoption is still looked down upon. Many people are discriminated against if they put their child up for adoption, there is a stigma associated with this that makes many people choose to keep the child.

Also notable is that this week the United Nations declared contraception to be a human right. About time, right? Family Planning is universally acknowledged to be critical for development; spacing children apart by a minimum of 2 years improves their health, developmental capacity, brain function, in-utero nutrition, and improves the health of the mother and ease of her delivery. Additionally, 82% of unwanted pregnancies could be avoided simply by increasing access to information and services regarding contraception. Who needs access? Women and adolescents as

Thai Minority Women in Dien Bien, Vietnam discussing the importance of family planning and maternal health (November 8-9, 2012)

those are the target groups and the people who need to be able to have control and power over decisions regarding their own bodies. This is a huge step forward for international development and a wake-up call for so called ‘developed’ nations to improve the dissemination of information and services regarding contraception. It also should indicate a need to not discriminate against such services on the basis of religion, funding, or personal beliefs.

Take a step forward with the United Nations and protect the rights and freedoms of people around the world by supporting family planning, improving access to contraception information and services, reducing the stigma surrounding adoption and abortion, and ensuring that women people are never denied the ability to live out their basic rights.

Some things worth checking out

Paths to the White House (note there are 431 ways for Obama to win and only 76 ways for Romney to win)

Live Election Results (currently giving me a slight heart attack)

Comment with other sites recommended; I’m a bit limited by what I can access in Vietnam.

 

Why I will not be ‘put in a binder’ and other rants

I may not be American, but I recognize that American politics and issues have (and will continue to have) fairly significant impacts on Canadian politics (which still infuriates me to no end). I apologize as you read this, in fact maybe stop now. I seem to get progressively more and more angry as I think about this more..

I fail to understand why and how someone like Mitt Romney can be chosen to represent an entire political party and given the opportunity to speak in front of large crowds (for anything other than entertainment) when he so clearly fails to represent a significant portion of the population – women. When someone can make such horrendous comments as were made during the second debate, I can only hope that his representation ceases.

Women – 50.8% of the population of the United States  – should not be ignored. Women are not some obscure painting to be taken out of storage only for show, women are an equal, qualified, educated, MAJORITY of the population. Having equal female representation should not be a task or a chore, it should be a given that women have a fair share of positions in all levels of all employment sectors. You shouldn’t need a “binder full of women” to find qualified women, you should be working with women and working for women on a regular basis.

On top of that, you should learn how to cook, because if you think that women need flexible work schedules to take care of their family and get dinner on the table, you are part of the problem. You are part of the reason that women work a double day: the solution to women’s double work day is not to give them more job flexibility to do more housework; it’s to give ALL employees EQUAL job flexibility to have an EQUAL share of housework. You should be supporting men in taking parental leave and in taking time off work when their kids are sick.

In addition to that, single parents are NOT the reason that people walk around with weapons, the lax gun laws are the reason people walk around with weapons. We have plenty of single parents in Canada (I was even raised by divorced parents) and yet our gun violence is infinitely less of a problem here: why? Because we don’t walk around with handguns for ‘personal protection’. Maybe if you associated with single parents or really anyone other than white, upper-class Americans you would know that. Or, if you really want to have less households with single parents, increase sexual education, maintain access to abortions, and allow same-sex marriages! Why is that so hard to understand? I mean, I get it, and I was raised by divorced parents (which apparently means I should be violent and be carrying AK-47s around), I don’t have a university degree (yet), oh and I’m a woman..

I love this blog

Romney actually claims he will lower taxes for everyone. At the same time he will increase defense spending, not cut Medicare or Social Security, keep most of Obamacare (while simultaneously repealing it) and somehow in the end he will decrease the deficit. I don’t know what he’s smoking but I bet its illegal in the Mormon church.

Protest the Police: Have Safe Sex. . .

Who knew that simply HAVING some of those items in the image to the left could be grounds for being arrested? I sure didn’t, but it seems that authorities in several cities in the USA disagree with me.

When I saw in the news that aid and health agencies were handing out condoms to sex workers to help minimize the risk of HIV and STI transmission (as well as the risk of pregnancy) I thought; “that’s amazing! Finally moving past stigmas and making decisions based on basic human health needs.” Then I saw that police and public authorities were confiscating those condoms essentially giving women the option to hand the condoms over or go to jail and I was enraged. I was even more enraged when I found out that this was happening in the USA – which in my opinion is a country that is quickly and systematically removing basic health and rights from women. What is most sad about this, is that I wasn’t even surprised to hear about it.

What I find worst about this scenario is that possession of condoms isn’t illegal, yet authorities are making women scared to have condoms, scared to use them, scared to have safe sex. Instead of protecting women and allowing safe sex options and transitional methods to give women alternatives to sex work, authorities are making sex work even less safe and even harder to get out of.

People should be praising women around the world who make the effort and insist on condom use, yet women are being punished for trying to protect themselves. So everyone who has access and ability, use condoms, be safe. Not only are you protecting yourself, but you’ll be sending a message to authorities worldwide who seem to want to limit women’s access to safe and affordable contraception.

The irony of this situation is that Washington D.C. – one of the cities where Human Rights Watch has documented this ridiculous condom possession and jail scenario – is actually hosting the 19th Annual International AIDS Conference.

Gender Gap of Women Voices in Broadcast TV, Radio & Print | 4thEstate.net

Gender Gap of Women Voices in Broadcast TV, Radio & Print | 4thEstate.net.

Check out this awesome infographic. It really highlights some of the issues in the USA, and I can’t help but wonder if it spills over into other nations as well.

Vagina

Vagina.

Linking to the above post from my classmate and friend Kyla at A Day in the Life. I felt as though my best response is a quote from Eve Ensler, activist, playwright, and creator of The Vagina Monologues;  “If we ever knew deep in our hearts that the issue about abortion … was not really about fetuses and babies, but really men‘s terror of women’s sexuality and power, I think it’s fully evidenced here.”

I believe that the fear and stigma associated with using words like vagina come from a deep rooted belief that if people talk about it, they run the risk of losing their honour and self-worth, which is in itself a dangerous concept. But I also feel it important to note that the same people who are waging this war against vaginas are also those who are ‘against comprehensive sexual education that would teach young people age-appropriate information about their sexual and reproductive anatomy, including the correct medical and anatomical terms for body parts. Information on sexually-transmitted infections that would preserve and protect these body parts are also taboo.’

If we move past the fear and stigma associated with simply using a word then there wouldn’t be a need for invasive and demeaning discussions on the rights that a woman has over her own body: she would simply have rights.

For more information, I recommend checking out Vagina is not a dirty word.

Millennium Development Goals (again)

 Water

There are news articles everywhere saying we’ve met the MDG target for access to clean, drinkable water and technically we have. We have halved the percent of population without access to clean water, with 2 billion additional people having access. But are we done yet?

While it is incredible that 89% of the population has access to clean, drinkable water (comparable to 76% in 1990), that means that 11% of the population is still forced to drink unsafe, unclean water every single day, 40% of which is in Sub-Saharan Africa. So are we done yet? Absolutely not, but at least progress is being made.

On another note, lets take a peak at the goal for maternal mortality.

Under this goal the UN is hoping to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters and ensure universal access to reproductive health. Now it is often said that these two indicators are often the best clue into the status of women’s rights and gender equality in a particular country. Some progress has been made, but this goal has seen the least progress and in many cases the least effort.

While nations around the world are making significant efforts to improve women’s rights, access to reproductive health (contraception, information, and abortion), increasing access to trained professionals prior to, during, and after birth, and increasing education and knowledge in general, we have countries closer to home where access to reproductive health (contraception, information, and abortion) is still considered fair game for public debate.

From 1998-2010 the USA actually regressed in terms of their maternal mortality rate showing an increase of twenty-five percent in a twelve-year period. Its appalling that such a thing can happen in a nation with health care readily available, and it demonstrates that gender equality and women’s health was not at the forefront of the nation’s agenda.

In Canada, we have the pesky little issue of abortion. Abortion is legal (huge win for women’s rights), but not available throughout the entire nation where some provinces and regions do not have the tools or facilities to perform abortions forcing Canadians to travel huge distances to seek out medical care. This drastically increases the cost, and decreases the availability of such reproductive health to girls and women who may not be able to travel and/or live in rural regions. Even more appalling is that we still have elected officials who are trying to make abortion illegal-may I add that I have yet to ever hear or see a female MP in Canada try to overturn our current abortion law? An MP from Kitchener has been trying to bring the abortion debate back into parliament since Christmas of 2011.

Does that mean that women’s rights are regressing? Maybe, but with absolute certainty it means that every nations must make a firm commitment to improve women’s rights, health, and access.

To check out international progress on the MDG’s go here.