"It does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning. Indeed, the purpose of this is to be able to save lives," Mr. Cannon told the Foreign Affairs committee.
Family planning and saving women's and children's lives cannot be separated as anyone with a functioning brain and no rightwing religious base to appease knows. But instead of posting a bunch of sciency-facty links proving that, let's instead look at one of the countries where the new and (dis)improved maternal health initiative may be called on to operate.
Kenya is trying to wrangle itself a new constitution. It's not going that well. Old political factions still exist and, to make things worse, the church stepped in to stamp its feet over the possibility of abortion being allowed.
An op-ed today by Isaiah Esipisu is titled If it’s lives we want to save, let’s make abortion legal.
Issues touching on sex are treated discreetly, especially in Africa. People rarely want to talk about sex in public, lest they sound immoral.
The same applies to abortion. Government officials, church leaders, and nearly all Kenyans know well that it takes place in the backstreet under quacks.
They know of women who have died procuring an abortion unsafely, or some who have suffered the negative consequences of abortion. But they are afraid to talk about it in public, lest they sound immoral.
But, just like our teenagers usually discover sex on their own, studies from some African countries indicate that nearly 90 per cent of teenage girls know at least one crude method of procuring an abortion — a method they discovered on their own.
And they rarely discuss it with their elders or their parents, lest they sound immoral.
Expanding the scope for safe abortion services remains a delicate one. If any policy-maker supported the proposal of including it in the Constitution, their political opponents would definitely use it as a campaign tool to question their morality.
During the just-concluded East, Central and Southern African Health Ministers’ Conference in Kampala, Kenya’s director of medical services made it clear that Kenya was not going to allow abortion services to be conducted in any of the health centres, unless the life of the mother was in danger.
The subject is unsafe abortion and there are some gory details I'll spare you. Let's get to the numbers:
According to government estimates, more than 860 women procured unsafe abortions yesterday, and a similar number will do it again today, and again tomorrow. In short, 316,560 abortions are procured unsafely every year, where 20,000 of the women end up in hospital beds, while 2,600 of them die.
This costs the country’s health systems an estimated Sh18 million every year.
And now for the facty-sciency studies:
Evidence from countries with progressive safe abortion laws indicate that appropriate laws, policies and services can eliminate deaths and injuries.
South Africa is a good example, where even midwives are allowed to offer the services on demand, especially if the pregnancies are 12 weeks old or less.
As a result, government records indicate that the country has reduced the maternal mortality rates due to unsafe abortion by 91 per cent since 1997, when the law was passed.
Abortion is lawful in Ghana, if the pregnancy is a result of rape, defilement or incest. It is also allowed if continued pregnancy would put the woman at risk, or where the child is likely to develop an abnormality. The same applies in Ethiopia and Zambia.
Maternal mortality in these countries due to unsafe abortions has reduced. Kenya may need to borrow a leaf and address abortion, not immorality.
Ah, I can hear Bev Odious and Lawrence LooseCannon now: 'What does this guy know? We in the developed world know what's good for these poor people and that's what they're going to get, even if we have to shove it down their throats.'
Oh. Wait. I'm wrong. That's what LifeShite said about Ignatieff's demand that the initiative address abortion.
And, if safe abortion saves lives, how many more would be saved by offering family planning so that women who don't want to get pregnant can take sensible measures to avoid it?