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.