In Liberia teen pregnancy rates are high even by West African standards, birth control is largely paid for by USAID programs that are at risk of evaporating should Republicans win in 2012. With every Republican candidate speaking out against contraception and with all of them pledging to eliminate Title X, the federal family-planning program launched by conservative Richard Nixon, public health officials are legitimately worried about a coming spike in unintended pregnancies and deaths should access to contraception be taken away.
As Goldberg notes, to put the severity of attack in some context, consider Mike Pence. Pence is one of Congress’s leading crusaders against Planned Parenthood, but even he thinks the right has gone too far. “I’ve never advocated reducing funding for Title X,” he told an Indiana radio station last year. “Title X clinics do important work in our inner cities. They provide health services for women and children that might not otherwise have access to them.”
Just how at risk are international women’s health programs? Should Mitt Romney, the most moderate of the Republicans win the presidency then he’ll impose the global gag rule, preventing any American money from going to organizations that perform or even counsel about abortions. He will also likely withhold money from the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, an agency that promotes reproductive health worldwide on the “demonstrably false” grounds that it supports coerced abortion in China.
Romney has also made it clear he would slash funding for HIV/AIDS relief efforts, pulling harder to the right on international public health initiatives than even former President Bush.
And a loss of funding will literally mean a loss of lives. In Africa approximately 95% of abortions performed are considered unsafe, meaning they happen outside of clinics and/or by people other than trained health care practitioners. In West African countries like Liberia where abortion is illegal women have been resorting to a method called a Rocket Propelled Grenade which is a mix of herbs and broken glass that is inserted into the vagina. Make reproductive health services even more difficult to access, or eliminate then all together, and these methods of desperation will only increase.
In countries like Liberia where civic peace is a tenuous prospect, destabilizing women’s health will increase pressure on governments and NGO’s and threaten to undo the small bits of progress that has been made in these desperately poor regions of the world. Like it or not the Republicans have declared war on the poor women of the world and it’s time they get called out on it.
Photo from nateOne via flickr.