Oct 10 2013

Prisoners don’t have “choices”

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NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said last week that,

“Women who are victims of criminal sexual violence in those countries have a right to get care and help, including a safe abortion,” Mulcair said.

“We find it simply unacceptable that Stephen Harper is sending out his ministers to stake out that type of ideological position instead of helping victims who need and deserve our help.”

Now, obviously Tom Mulcair can’t possibly be thinking that abortion is any kind of solution during times (years and decades) of continuous grotesque violence against women. To think that he would have to believe that women being held captive and brutalized have the kind of so-called “free will” that Canadian women enjoy on a daily basis. He would have to believe that a woman can be a prisoner of war in her own home and yet still have the luxury of an idea we call choice.

To think that he would have to believe that advocating an abortion-access policy in Africa is less “ideological” than trying to implement programs that aid women in coming up with their own solutions to crisis pregnancies, solutions that are in keeping with their beliefs and their values.  Tom Mulcair can’t possibly be thinking that the colonialism of telling African women, of which the majority are Christian (40%) and Muslim (45%), that they are wrong and that Canadian women are right is the best option, can he?

Tom Mulcair must be aware of the failures of the Canadian Indian residential school system, failures that resulted in children being deprived of their native cultural heritage and are best not reenacted in our policies abroad. I can’t believe that Tom Mulcair actually meant what he said, because to believe that would be to think he believes prisoners have choices and that Canadians (namely himself, and a handful of very aggressive abortion advocates) know better than everyone else.

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Jan 31 2013

Affirmative action, a solution to sex selection?

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Affirmative action refers to policies that aim to insure that all groups of individuals are represented in various environments (schools, governments, corporations, etc), policies that sometimes attempt to make up for past discrimination. A new proposal in Vietnam seeks to do just that. In an attempt to make up for the gender imbalance caused by sex selection, the proposal would give financial incentives to families with “only two baby girls.”

Under the plan, the Government will provide a number of benefits to those who have two daughters and comply with the policy that every family should have no more than two children.

The benefits include a payment when a family has a second daughter and support for school tuition and health insurance for both daughters when they grow up, Trong said.

According to an officer of the General Department of Population, in fact, a number of provinces have implemented this policy. For example, Thai Binh Province presents gifts for the families having two daughters while Hoa Binh Province encourages and supports women and girls, especially families that have only daughters.

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Dec 12 2012

Does Canadian mining cause AIDS?

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In a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen, Dr. Gretchen Roedde, a Canadian advocate and practitioner for international maternal health, describes why Canada is getting a bad reputation when it comes to international development.

“I haven’t worked for Canada for some time. We used to have a good reputation internationally. We don’t anymore,” she said bluntly in a telephone interview.

It’s something Julian Fantino should pay attention to. The minister in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency has been in the public spotlight in recent weeks sketching a significant shift in Canadian foreign aid toward promoting and strengthening ties with Canadian companies overseas. CIDA’s strategy, he has said, will include helping Canadian business become more competitive in the developing world.

Roedde notes that such a policy means countries get Canadian aid based on their natural resources. Countries without Canadian business interests, despite needs, are less likely to get the timely attention of Canadian aid, even if maternal death rates are high. “We are giving money to groups and countries where we have business interests, not where the maternal mortality rate is high.”

Still, she says, Canadian companies can play a role in helping to improve health and mitigate the negate health effects they have on developing countries. The spread of HIV, she says, is often a byproduct of mines in the developing world, something that extractive companies should focus on.

“Mining equals AIDs,” she says. “(You have) the dynamic of having a bunch of men away from their families and sex workers crowding around.”

Foreign mining companies see a resource (gold, coal, diamonds) then build mines and employ locals to work under them to extract the resource. This process usually causes a lot of disruption to a community, and in regions with poor infrastructure it opens the floodgates to civil war and gorilla groups who wish to capitalize on the distribution of a country’s natural resources. In a nutshell, you get the Congo crisis.

In my opinion, and a lot of other better educated people’s, foreign mining doesn’t just spread AIDS, it spreads civil war, rape, and social chaos. I appreciate Dr. Roedde’s effort to raise awareness about maternal health issues and her hands-on work in the developing world, but I find it appalling that this article actually advocates “distributing condoms” as a solution to this problem.

Issues of violence, environmental damage and human rights abuses abound in mineral rich Africa and according to a 2009 report produced by the Canadian Centre for the Study of Resource Conflict, Canadian mining companies have been the most significant group involved in such violations.


Andrea adds:  I just want to be cautious about dumping on the mining industry when in many parts of the world, they come to impoverished communities and create jobs and wealth, without contributing to AIDS. If a mining company comes and AIDS increases, does it not mean that an existing problem was brought into one place? Mine Your Own Business is a good movie to see, although it never touches on maternal health or AIDS.

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Dec 01 2012

More than 2 children? No job for you

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Elected officials in India are losing their jobs for having more than 2 children. Read more here,

Ravi Yadav, who was elected to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) from Langar House, was disqualified by the court as he had three children, which was in violation of election rules governing the civic body. The high court declared Uday Kumar of the BJP as elected in his place. Uday Kumar had challenged Ravi Yadav’s election of 1995.

This is the second time that a court has disqualified a member of GHMC on the ground of number of children. Earlier a Congress corporator Vanaja Lakshman Goud was disqualified by the court as she had three children. But in her affidavit she had declared the names of only two. In that case the court declared Bhanumati of MIM as the winner as she had come second in the elections. The high court passed the orders under Section-21B of the GHMC Act, 2009.

Under the 1995 Act of civic body polls, if a candidate has more than two children, he or she is ineligible to contest elections. Yadav faced the allegation that he failed to provide correct information on the number of his children at the time of filing his nomination.

Observers say that this can lead to many more such complaints and litigations against the elected representatives of local bodies who were known to have more than the stipulated number of children. It is believed that there were 10 elected members of GHMC who had more than two children and their rivals were now likely to drag them to court.

The same two child norm also applies to MLAs and MLCs but many of the elected representatives are continuing in their positions as no one challenged them.

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Dec 01 2012

Is starvation “end of life” care?

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UK doctors are revealing shocking stories of starvation as a method of “end of life” care for infants. It is policy, it seems, for National Health Service doctors to withdraw feeding tubes and fluids from children, as well as terminally ill and elderly patients, deemed to be suitable for an end of life regime called the “Liverpool Care Pathway” (the LCP). From the Daily Mail,

One doctor has admitted starving and dehydrating ten babies to death in the neonatal unit of one hospital alone.

Writing in a leading medical journal, the physician revealed the process can take an average of ten days during which a  baby becomes ‘smaller and shrunken’.

The LCP – on which 130,000 elderly and terminally-ill adult patients die each year – is now the subject of an independent inquiry ordered by ministers. [...]

The use of end of life care methods on disabled newborn babies was revealed in the doctors’ bible, the British Medical Journal. 

Earlier this month, an un-named doctor wrote of the agony of watching the protracted deaths of babies. The doctor described one case of a baby born with ‘a lengthy list of unexpected congenital anomalies’, whose parents agreed to put it on the pathway.

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Nov 23 2012

An obstetrician’s response to the case of Savita Halappanavar

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As someone who strongly believes that one life is no more or no less valuable than any other, I sought to discover what the standard of practice actually is in cases like that of Savita Halappanavar. Of course with so little known about her case, I sought answers based on the scenario that Savita tragically suffered from second trimester septic inevitable miscarriage. In this scenario, what are the standards of care, and what do obstetricians believe and practice? A pair of experienced Senior Obstetricians from MaterCare International wrote their response,

MaterCare agrees with the opinion of Dr John Bonnar, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology who explained, in 2000, to an all party Irish parliamentary Committee considering abortion; “In current obstetrical practice rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention is required at a stage in pregnancy when there will be little or no prospect for the survival of the baby, due to extreme immaturity. In these exceptional situations failure to intervene may result in the death of both the mother and baby. We consider that there is a fundamental difference between abortion carried out with the intention of taking the life of the baby, for example for social reasons, and the unavoidable death of the baby resulting from essential treatment to protect the life of the mother”.

Such an approach is justified ethically by the Principle of Double Effect, (a time honoured principle based on Aristotelian principles), which states that is morally permissible to carry out a procedure that has two effects, one good and the other bad which are practically inseparable.

Was Savita Halappanavar a victim of malpractice? I think there is certainly a strong possibility, but I would agree that there is indeed a very big difference between inducing labour in an attempt to save the lives of both mother and child and performing an abortion, which does not attempt or lend itself to the possibility of saving the life of the child.

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Jul 11 2012

One standpoint vs. 222 million

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In this article about global maternal health from the Globe and Mail, the author makes so many false assumptions and claims that it’s hard to respond in just one blog post, but I’ll try.

The author Erin Anderssen assumes a number of things, the first that all women are the same. Anderson claims to know what women want with statements like,

For women, having more reproductive choice means fewer children, spaced farther apart […]

Currently, the number of women who have an unmet need for modern contraception in 2012 is 222 million.

Obviously having more “choice” doesn’t produce a cookie-cutter outcome, and I can personally testify (along with other women from this site) that spacing children farther apart and having less of them is not a common goal all women share. In addition, there is the statement that all women who don’t have immediate access to contraception “need” it. I’m sure that many of the women the author is speaking on behalf of so willfully don’t, in fact, want birth control. What I have heard women from developed countries say time and time again is that they don’t want to continue to be pregnant. I hear this statement differently than Andersen probably does. When a woman says she doesn’t want to be pregnant anymore, I hear a woman saying she wants more control over her sex life, not over her ovaries. High rape statistics and social obligations to be subservient in the bedroom lead to women having sex when they don’t want to, and this in turn leads to being pregnant when she doesn’t want to be. Simply providing contraception to a woman will not make her more “free” when having sex is an obligation for her.

The second point I’d like to make is that social stigma ought not be a given. What I mean here is that we don’t need to accept that a girl can be kicked out of school or her home for being pregnant.

In a too-common story in her village of Kisiwa in Tanzania, Maria Mwaya found herself unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 16. When she tried to continue to attend school, she was ordered home: she was seen as a mother, and no longer a student. […]

Women are creatures who can get pregnant, and there shouldn’t need to be a separate set of rights for women and pregnant women. We’re all, pregnant or not, women. Being forced to leave school because you’re pregnant is not acceptable. Why anyone would say contraception is the solution when a woman’s right to an education is being violated?

We know that the majority of maternal deaths (over 90%) are from preventable causes that have nothing to do with contraception or abortion, and yet this article focuses on contraception as the holy grail, claiming that,

 If every woman seeking modern contraception methods in all developing countries were supplied, an additional 54 million unintended pregnancies would be prevented […]

The Cost Contraceptive care in 2012 will cost $4-billion in the developing world. To meet the need of all women in the developing world would cost $8.1-billion per year.

I know the pharmaceutical companies are drooling over those numbers, but contraception doesn’t prevent all pregnancies, it doesn’t give women the choice of having sex or not, and it doesn’t enforce women’s rights. The only solution for permanent change is to give women the freedom to have their children safely by providing health care, enforcing women’s rights to education, collapsing the stigma of pregnancy, and giving women control over when they do and don’t have sex by respecting women and their ability to become pregnant.

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Jul 08 2012

Abortion pill sales drop in India

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Sales of abortion pills/kits in India have fallen between 65 and 78 percent in Mumbai, India. This is due to the FDA there cracking down on the drugs being pushed by pharmaceutical companies in the form of marketing schemes and “deals” on the product.

Following the decision of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to tighten the screws on the sale of abortion pills, sale of such drugs has dropped by a whopping 78% across the state.

[…] Commenting on the trend of pharmaceutical companies pushing sale of such drugs, he said companies through their medical representatives are luring doctors with schemes like ‘buy 1 get 5 free’. “This is a serious trend and we are going to take action against them,’’ he said.


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Jun 25 2012

On-line petition to Melinda Gates

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I like Melinda Gates, I really do. Though I don’t know her personally, I feel like she’s a very genuine person who truly cares about her fellow human beings, even if she is wrong about how to help them. It is true that she’s giving an awful lot of money and support to groups and causes that, beneath the veneer of pretty rhetoric, probably care more about economics than they do about people. This on-line petition is for Melinda Gates to reassess the upcoming Family Planning Summit which her foundation is co-hosting and to consider the concerns and agendas of organizations that promote healthy child-birth rather than population control. You can read the petition and sign it for yourself here.

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Jun 15 2012

Forced abortion

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Yes, it does happen.

BEIJING- China suspended three officials and apologized to a woman who was forced to undergo an abortion seven months into her pregnancy in a case that sparked an uproar after graphic photos of the mother and her dead baby were circulated online.

The moves appeared to be aimed at allaying public anger over a case that has triggered renewed criticism of China’s widely hated one-child limit. Designed to control the country’s exploding population, the policy has led to often violently imposed forced abortions and sterilizations as local authorities pursue birth quotas set by Beijing.

Feng Jianmei, 23, was beaten by officials and forced to abort the baby at seven months on June 2 because her family could not afford a 40,000 yuan ($6,300) fine for having a second child, Chinese media reported this week.

Though details are hard to come by, Feng Jianmei’s forced abortion took place in the  Shaanxi province. A province served by an abortion clinic run by Marie Stopes in Xi’an, Shaanxi.

 Zhou Anqin, the manager at the clinic in Xi’an, which performs about 60 abortions each month, mostly on students aged 24 or younger.

The two-story facility, which opened in 2007, is one of five operated in China by Marie Stopes International [...]

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