Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Truth About Maternal Health

Well girls, here I am coming out of blogger semi-retirement after such a long lapse. My own family life has consumed so much of my energy these past months that I have had nothing left over to give to the blogosphere... until now. The issue of maternal health is a pressing one, both nationally (in Canada) and globally, and there is much posturing and politicizing on both ends of the spectrum. If you care about women, if you care about humanity, READ THIS.

The recent discussion of the G8 agenda for child and maternal health has reopened (at least in Canada) the debate over abortion. I have friends both "pro-life" and "pro-choice", but I have yet to find one person who thinks that abortion is evil but should be permitted. Generally supporters and opposers of access to abortions fall into two categories: 1) those who think it's wrong (usually based on religious beliefs), and 2) those who think it's sometimes the right choice for a woman (based on ethical and compassionate humanitarian values). I don't think even the most avid supporters of abortion access are saying that women should be forced to have abortions. The point is that women need to be protected and to have the ability to protect their own interests.

Here are the facts.

The World Health Organization defines maternal death as "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes." The organization also states that "Maternal death is, from an epidemiological perspective, a relatively rare event".

Wikipedia provides some interesting statistics from a range of medical and sociological studies, showing that
maternal death is closely linked with infections, low birth weights, and lack of medical staff, facilities and supplies. What these facts indicate is that maternal health hinges on nutrition, sanitation, and access to prenatal and postpartum medical care - not on access to abortions.

And of course, to state the obvious, abortions are counter-productive to infant and child health. (Duh, abortions kill unborn children.)

Pregnancy is not inherently dangerous to women. Face it, women's bodies are designed to bear and birth new life. The midwifery movement has been saying this for years: pregnancy is a natural process, NOT a medical complication. Women are incredible in their power to produce young. Women who are malnourished and abused will have difficult pregnancies - but then, these women would have less chances of survival even WITHOUT being pregnant.

Let's get real, folks. Women's rights are important - as basic human rights. All people should have access to good food, safe shelter, good sanitation, and good medical care. The same goes for children, as was emphasized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The same goes for the disabled, the poor... in fact ALL people everywhere.

Abortion has no positive impact on these issues. In fact, it has a number of long-term negative impacts (both physical and psychological) on women who have had them. So, whether you believe in God or not, whether you believe in Christian morality or humanitarian ethics or both, let's drop the issue of a woman's convenience (and that's really what it is) from the discussion of child and maternal health as a global initiative.

And that's my two cents.

P.S. I happen to be a follower of Christ who takes the Bible as my guidebook... and I am encouraged to find that in all circumstances, the laws of the Kingdom are the way the world / nature / society / life works best.