A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit ignoring abortion?


1:58 pm - July 11th 2012

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contribution by Darinka Aleksic

Today the Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will launch the London Summit on Family Planning, a landmark initiative to bring contraception to 120 million women worldwide.

With representatives from around 25 countries, it intendeds to kick-start a global movement to address the unmet need for contraception faced by 215 million women worldwide, chiefly in developing countries.

It also seeks to reverse two decades of neglect caused by social opposition to the issue, particularly within the Bush administration in America, but also in some Muslim countries and from the Catholic Church.

40% of pregnancies in developing countries are unplanned. The toll taken by repeated pregnancies among young women in particular is appalling, with girls in the poorest nations more likely to die in childbirth than finish primary school.

The ability to plan, space and delay childbearing is absolutely key to empowering women and girls, improving education and reducing poverty.

But therein lies the problem which is troubling many reproductive rights advocates ahead of the summit: the glaring absence of any reference to the importance of abortion in the family planning equation. Without its inclusion, the commitments to women’s empowerment made by governments, foundations and NGOs are, if not hollow, then partial at best.

Melinda Gates herself has spoken of the ‘soul searching’ involved in her decision to disobey the teachings of her Catholic faith to pursue the issue. To face down such doubt and opprobrium on a personal and institutional level takes courage.

But Gates has also been clear that “From the very beginning, we said that as a foundation we will not support abortion, because we don’t believe in funding it.”

This is beyond disappointing. It is effectively saying that the demands and the needs of some women are legitimate, but that others are beyond the moral pale.

To have such global heavyweights weigh in on behalf of the 20 million women who have unsafe abortions every year and the 47,000 women who will die as a result could have had a truly transformative effect.

So while we celebrate the arrival of the Family Planning Summit in the capital today, the event is both a welcome and wasted opportunity.


A longer version is at Abortion Rights

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Reader comments


1. Chaise Guevara

Pro-choicers are always telling pro-lifers that they should be supporting contraception use. And while it’s usually phrased snarkily, it’s a reasonable point: people on both sides of this debate should want contraception to be accessible. So having a go at pro-lifers supporting contraception seems counterproductive to me.

Pragmatically, odds are the charity would get a lot less money if it was pro-choice.

Chaise

And while it’s usually phrased snarkily, it’s a reasonable point: people on both sides of this debate should want contraception to be accessible.

It’s reasonable from a consquentialist perspective but, then, some people aren’t consequentialists. If a supporter of the death penalty proposed that I should support the amputation of criminals’ limbs because there would be less crime and less demand for capital punishment I’d still disagree because I think both acts are grotesque.

Some, like, apparently, Mr and Mrs Gates, might be swayed by such arguments but its futile to imagine that we’re all arguing from the same moral premises.

3. Chaise Guevara

@ 2 BenSix

Oh, I agree, and I’m not going to sneer at pro-lifers for not supporting contraception (although I might ask them to consider it as a possible lesser of two “evils”).

My point is that this article undermines any attempts to persuade persuadable pro-lifers of the pragmatic benefits of contraception. If they read this they’ll think “damned if we do, damned if we don’t”, and possibly decide that pro-contraception campaigns are a stalking horse for pro-choice, which they ain’t.

Pope Melinda I is in town, with no one from the idiot BBC daring to question her assertion that Catholic doctrine is, or at the very least ought to be, determined by opinion polls taken among Americans who happen to identify themselves as Catholics. It is likewise taken as read that the problem with the world is that it has proles and darkies in it. Heaven forfend that anyone might mention the global redistribution of wealth, or the improvement of African women’s healthcare by providing them with, oh, you know, doctors, nurses and midwives.

The invariable increase in abortions wherever there are contraceptives; the horrific side effects of the Pill, of women poisoning themselves so as to be permanently available for the sexual gratification of men; the obvious dangers of sticking a coil or a diaphragm up oneself; the total ineffectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections from Botswana to Birmingham, from Malawi to Manchester, from Ghana to Glasgow, from Cameroon to Cardiff: none of this must ever be mentioned. Did someone say something about “informed choice”?

Years ago, I remember mentioning the Conservatives to one of this country’s best-known pro-life and pro-family activists. She all but spat with contempt: “I spent 18 years campaigning against them.” As, indeed, she had done, and most especially against Margaret Thatcher, the abomination of whose name in such circles is matched only by the abomination of the name of Tony Blair. A traditional Catholic, my interlocutor’s only objection to Labour was that “it used to be based on Methodism, but it isn’t anymore.”

And now, the party against whom she fought so valiantly for 18 years is back with a vengeance. Labour should make clear that, in emulation of Saint Melinda, it will cease the direct funding of abortion as part of the overseas aid budget, something that would in fact reduce that budget dramatically, so very much of it is spent on that procedure.

We could then get to work with facts such as the invariable increase in abortions wherever there are contraceptives. Our reasonable expectation could be to reframe the debate entirely, in terms such as the global redistribution of wealth, and the improvement of African women’s healthcare by providing them with, oh, you know, doctors, nurses and midwives.

5. Shatterface

It’s reasonable from a consquentialist perspective but, then, some people aren’t consequentialists. If a supporter of the death penalty proposed that I should support the amputation of criminals’ limbs because there would be less crime and less demand for capital punishment I’d still disagree because I think both acts are grotesque.

On the other hand I haven’t seen anyone advocating amputation as a humane alternative to the death penalty, whereas I know plenty of Catholics opposed to abortion but I don’t know any opposed to contraception, whatever the Pope tells them.

The anti-contraception lobby are a tiny number of seriously unhinged nutbags without even the beginings of a moral case other than ‘god sez’, while the anti-abortion lobby can at least begin to mount a secular moral case based on when ‘life’ begins – even if I’d disagree with them.

Shatterface

Yes, Catholic clerics and theologians are liable to oppose contraception but most of their followers – in the West, at least – have quietly decided that they’re keen on condoms.

Ben Six, it doesn’t work like that. And Shatterface, you need to get out more.

The position of the Catholic Church is fully borne out by the facts, and is unique in being so. Femaleness has been classified as in itself a medicable condition by means of the contraceptive pill, which is simply not a medicine at all. It is, in point of fact, a poison, designed precisely to stop healthy body parts from performing their natural functions, and accordingly attended by all manner of horrific side effects, for no reason except to make women permanently available for the sexual gratification of men

And despite the unrivalled effectiveness of Natural Family Planning if it is taught and practised properly, a practice only possible by a faithful married couple. Even the WHO, hardly a Vatican puppet to put things at their very mildest, has to admit that one. The Pill, in turn, has wrought havoc by filling our water supply with synthetic oestrogens. Following logically, maleness itself has also been so classified, leading to the heavy medication of boys purely for being boys, by means of Ritalin and other powerful “treatments” for largely or entirely invented conditions.

Public money is lavished on those who bear the name of Marie Stopes, author of extravagant, versified love letters to Hitler. Marie Stopes, who disowned her own son because he married a woman who wore glasses. Marie Stopes, who campaigned for the compulsory sterilisation of “the C3 population”, of “half-castes” and of “revolutionaries”, among numerous others. Marie Stopes, who opened dozens of clinics in working-class areas to reduce the number of “undesirables” by persuasion if force were politically impossible. Yet those clinics now retain the right to “counsel” women considering the abortions that they have a gigantic financial and an immeasurable ideological interest in ensuring go ahead.

They still carry the name of Marie Stopes. Our televisions now carry their adverts. Our 50p stamps have recently carried her image. And we all carry the shame. As they do across the Atlantic, where tax dollars fund the heirs of Margaret Sanger, whose stated primary objective was always to prevent black babies from being born, the objective still pursued above all others by her successors, so that “Planned Parenthood” would more accurately be called “Planned Genocide”.

Bringing us, more or less, to Africa. Certain people might consider applying some journalistic or scientific objectivity to the question of where in Africa the condom use relentlessly promoted by Western nongovernmental organisations and compliant governments has ever arrested, never mind reversed, the rate of HIV infection. There is nowhere.

However, such a reversal is under way in Uganda, where the government’s message is the same as the Catholic Church’s: “Change Your Behaviour”. Huge numbers of condoms have been distributed in Botswana, and the result has been for President Festus Mogae to declare, “Abstain or die”. Who, exactly, is incapable of fidelity within a monogamous marriage and abstinence outside such a marriage? Women? Black people? Poor people? Developing-world people? Or just poor black women in the developing world?

It is no wonder that early Labour activists peremptorily dismissed a scheme to abort, contracept and sterilise the working class out of existence. Everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, should read my friend Ann Farmer’s Prophets and Priests: The Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement, London: The Saint Austin Press, 2002, ISBN 1 901157 62 8. In addition to its unyielding racism, the war against fertility is, and has always been, the war against the working class, the war against the poor at home and abroad, the war against the electoral base of the Left, the war against the social provisions for which the Left exists, and, above all, the war against women.

Furthermore (this bit is Lindsay, not Farmer – but I’m sure that she would agree with it), the idea of fertility as a medicable condition, requiring powerful drugs or even surgical interventions to prevent a woman’s body from doing exactly what it does naturally, is basically and ultimately the idea that femaleness itself is such a condition, a sort of XX Syndrome. I can think of nothing that is actually more misogynistic than that, although some things are equally so, notably the view that the preborn child is simultaneously insentient and a part of the woman’s body. Is it the whole of a woman’s body that is insentient, or only the parts most directly connected with reproduction?

In America, and increasingly also in Britain, the black male is the victim of a triple genocide in the womb, on the streets, and on the battlefield.

I bet SMFS could take Lindsay in a fight easy.

9. Pfffffffff

David Lindsay, the fact you find conspiracy theories about eostrogen in the water easier to believe than the idea of women enjoying a bit of sexual gratification for themselves, well, it just makes you look a bit thick.
Well, that and everything you’ve just written.

10. Shatterface

Ben Six, it doesn’t work like that. And Shatterface, you need to get out more.

I think your post pretty much proves my case about seriously unhinged nutbags.

I agree with a lot of what David Lindsay says. I am a catholic but thats not the reason i have never taken the birth control pill. I just think it’s unatural and for some women unsafe.

When a woman has an abortion it’s her individual choice. To expect Melinda Gates to fund abortions for many women when it clearly goes against her conscience is being downright unreasonable.

It’s probably tactical, but I agree it’s disappointing. Access to safe abortion has to be part of any comprehensive family planning policy. I wonder where Melinda Gates stands on the morning-after pill?

Greater access to contraception is a good start though, and may I just make the point that while the contraceptive pill is not without its potential side effects, it is statistically safer than pregnancy and birth even in a developed country with good healthcare.

But the whole point is: it’s up to the women. It’s about what they want. Nobody is going to force them to take the pill or use any other form of contraception. At the moment they don’t have a choice. Hopefully soon they will.

13. Charlieman

Violet makes the point that “it is tactical”. I’d argue too that anyone who desires that women and families in developing countries have access to contraception should work with the Gates Foundation on this. It may not be all that you want but it is considerably more than would be achieved otherwise.

I’d also highlight that access to contraception will provide a general increase in health care for women of child bearing age. They’ll be visiting health workers and receive a checkup. The side benefits should not be underestimated.

14. Martin Miller

David Lindsay? Isn’t he the guy who got exposed for writing to prominent journalists under a fake name pleading with them to pay him attention? Why yes, he is. Now he’s so famous he has to use a vanity press.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 11 Lynne

“I agree with a lot of what David Lindsay says. I am a catholic but thats not the reason i have never taken the birth control pill. I just think it’s unatural and for some women unsafe.”

Other things that are unnatural:

*Medicine.
*Cooking food instead of eating it raw.
*Vehicles of all description.
*Clothes of all description.
*The internet.

Bearing in mind that we know you enjoy the fruits of at least of these unnatural solutions, why exactly are we to think that “it’s unnatural” is an argument against anything?

As for safety, I assume there’s an attempt to assess this at the point of use, and as long as pertinant information isn’t withheld I don’t see why women should be restricted from making their own choices here – and that’s without getting into the dangers of NOT taking the pill.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Kaya Anderson Payne

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit today ignoring abortion? http://t.co/CzRnYyaY

  2. Abortion Rights

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit today ignoring abortion? http://t.co/CzRnYyaY

  3. Maeve Regan

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit today ignoring abortion? http://t.co/CzRnYyaY

  4. Etudiants Pro-Vie

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit today ignoring abortion? http://t.co/CzRnYyaY

  5. Elle Griffiths

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit today ignoring abortion? http://t.co/CzRnYyaY

  6. Alison Phipps

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit today ignoring abortion? http://t.co/CzRnYyaY

  7. Education For Choice

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit today ignoring abortion? http://t.co/CzRnYyaY

  8. God and Politics UK

    Bill and Melinda Gates foundation will not support abortion funding: http://t.co/BzxCxJjx via @libcon

  9. paula mendez

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit today ignoring abortion? http://t.co/CzRnYyaY

  10. paula mendez

    Good news! @sunny_hundal reporting that #FPsummit not funding #abortion http://t.co/w1M9LA5s

  11. More Than Statistics and Soundbites – The Family Planning Summit | saltandcaramel.com

    […] don’t agree that it is a ‘wasted opportunity‘, but a good start on a long road. Getting all of these countries to come together, cajoling […]

  12. Highs and Lows at The London Family Planning Summit: |

    […] Wasted Opportunity for Safe Abortions: As Dana Hovig of Marie Stopes International wrote for the Huffington Post, everyone knew that safe abortions would not be discussed at the meeting. And despite a few mentions by leaders from the African continent, no one really took up the cause. It was a missed opportunity for safe abortions, and any discussion would have made a difference to women in Asia and Africa. One particular Tweet feed that stood out was from Sunny Hundal, who shared this article on why the exclusion of abortions was a disappointment. […]

  13. BevR

    A wasted opportunity: why is the #FPsummit ignoring abortion? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/WZtSwHkp via @libcon

  14. Asia and Africa: Five points that stood out at the Global Family Planning Summit 2012 |

    […] One particular Tweet feed that stood out was from Sunny Hundal, who shared this article on why the exclusion of abortions was a disappointment: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/07/11/a-wasted-opportunity-why-is-the-fpsummit-ignoring-abortion/ […]

  15. Nicole Rowe

    A wasted opportunity: why are Melinda Gates and the #FPsummit ignoring abortion? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/UBLUgdTt #FamilyPlanning





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