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UN Family Planning Funding: Listen to the Women


Rebecca Louise

Contraception and the tools of family planning that women in the U.S. now take for granted are most often available in the developing world in health clinics funded or run by international agencies. Overpopulation and women's health issues are among the most important problems when it comes to the world's stability since famine, poverty, illness and ignorance kill far more men, women and children than war. Yet, the U.S. government led by George W. Bush is trying to make it harder for these poor women in the less developed parts in the world to learn about spacing their pregnancies further apart or how to plan their family size in a more rational manner.

Bush has been convinced by narrow-minded fundamentalist zealots who are trying to make the whole world conform to their own ideal of morality to hurt these poor women even more than life has already done -- by withholding funds to the U.N. for health and population control services because of gossip and innuendo about one program in China.

Since he hasn’t been lucky enough to be invited into their homes and into their lives the way I have, maybe he isn’t aware that by limiting their access to family planning, or basic health services, he will probably force them to have MORE abortions or to face earlier death, possibly forcing their young daughters into future abortions because of this awful action.

Bush hasn't actually met many women who live in the “developing world.” Well, I have -- in Haiti, Nigeria, India and other countries. These women live on the edge of life but manage to try to find happiness anyway. I have learned to respect their resilience in the face of the adversity life throws their way. They care about trying to feed their children and trying to rise above the brutality that nature and sometimes their cultures or governments inflict on them. They depend on their wits and good humor and sometimes on the kindness of strangers far, far away to make their lives manageable. They will giggle as the wring the neck of their last chicken to feed a guest - one baby in a sling on their back, another hanging onto the hem of their shirt and another quite obviously on the way. These women don't hate children; they just want to be more sensible about the whole process, that's all.

If these women have too many pregnancies, they have two options: they can have more abortions (which are often legal in their countries ­ like in our own country; remember the laws you promised to uphold that cold January day, sir?) or they can die at a younger age from having too many children, too close together or not having good health care. Thus, you will cause more abortions or more young orphans. These orphan daughters are more likely to be young brides ­- starting the horrible cycle all over again by forcing them to leave school and have too many children at a young age who will also probably be poor and have too many children…

The right wing activists in the U.S. who control the Bush Administration express their horror that abortion is a method of birth control. But the women who use this method of last resort surely do not want to have abortions. I had to deal with the aftermath of several poor women whom I knew who had abortions. They were devastated but there had been no good access to reliable birth control. I finally paid for them to get good imported birth control methods from my own resources. I PREVENTED abortions by providing good, reliable birth control. That is the best way to prevent abortion, not telling poor women to give their babies away.

In any case, just because a woman’s health clinic has an abortion element, doesn’t mean that this is the only kind of work being done there. Doesn’t anyone in the Anti-Choice movement or the White House understand that when intelligent, rational alternative methods are offered, women would always prefer those methods? But why should a clinic or a woman be punished for services that are perfectly legal in their own country and ours because Karl Rove and a few radical fundamentalists want to throw red meat to a small voting constituency in the US?

These women love their babies and they love their families. They usually have more pregnancies and more children than the average American woman ­- gladly. Most women overseas still believe in large families. But they don’t want to die. They don’t want to die or have abortions so you can get votes. They want to space their children out, that’s all. They want to be able to send all their children to school and these lovely women want to live to be old enough to raise all of their children and to hug and kiss their grandchildren too.

Do we have the right to tell these hard working, religious, moral women, George W. Bush, that we are closer to God than they are and that even though they work 16 hours a day carrying concrete on their heads, or sewing beads onto the lovely dresses your wife Laura wears that they have less right to health care or family planning services simply because this policy can be used to secure votes in the Bible belt?

Listen to the women of the world. They're telling us what they need to make their families and the world a better place. If only we would listen to them.