Kudos to the Iceman for sending me down this path. I was just reading one of his blog posts on Maternal Deaths and decided to delve a little further in another direction. I have been interested in this topic for many years, since before I became a mother myself in fact (almost 13 years ago). I also read a Letter To The Editor in my local paper last night that popped the idea into my head for a post,, so here we go!
It has been in the news repeatedly in recent months that Canada's federal govt does not want to continue funding abortions around the globe. This decision has been taking hits from numerous groups - medical, women's interest groups, the general public, opposition parties, etc. The latest stats announce that approximately 70,000 women around the world die each year because of botched abortions. This stat is often used as an argument in favour of continuing to fund international groups that may use the money to create or improve clinics, to help women survive. To Save Lives.
Fair enough. However, when you look into other causes of maternal death around the world, you find a much more staggering figure. According to Science Daily.com, over 500,000 women died in 2000 during or shortly after childbirth and that this figure could be reduced greatly with a few things that industrialized nations have easy access to, but developing or underdeveloped countries do not. The majority of deaths, according to the article, which takes its information from the United Nations, are caused by severe bleeding in the days after birth. A large number of maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are also related to infectious diseases that treatments are available for. Perhaps this is the kind of statistic that the Canadian govt has been looking at and sees that a greater number of Lives Can Be Saved by channeling funding to contraception, medicine, antivirals, and medical staff training. Malaria and HIV are listed in studies (see last link) as being a top contributor to maternal death. Since both Malaria and HIV/AIDS take the lives of millions worldwide each year, doesn't it stand to reason that if countries are going to band together to provide funding for international medical care, it would be best if the larger death rates are tackled first?
It could be argued that if more termination funding was provided, there would be fewer maternal deaths overall because more women would be able to choose abortion and thus not risk dying during childbirth later on, but is that where we really want to go? Abortion is a risky procedure no matter where it is performed, just like any other medical procedure. Do we want to provide more and more, or if we are going to fund international medicine, should we not try to tackle the big picture first? I do not wish to infer that the lives of 70,000 women a year is insignificant, but when compared to 500,000 or 5 million (combined Malaria and HIV yearly death rates), it really is a small part of a bigger problem.
It is difficult to follow the money when it is handed over to a group that provides all sorts of medical care but lately they have been calling out the 70,000 statistic quite loudly, at least in the media, so it would lead us to believe they are focusing tightly on providing safer abortions. If our tax dollars are to be used to help others across the globe, would you rather have a hand in saving between half a million and 5 million people a year, or a hand in helping save 70,000 a year. If the choice came down to that, what would you prefer, as a taxpayer funding this? Would you rather your money went to providing medication that could treat and save millions of people suffering from Malaria and AIDS, or providing better medical staff training in birth centers and medication to stave off hemorrages after birthing - having a hand in saving millions of people; or would you rather your money went to creating a clinic where women can have their pregnancies terminated, saving 70,000 or so lives? It's a harsh reality that choices have to be made. If you found that a women's group was using a large chunk of it's funding to open more abortion clinics than it was using to hand out live-saving medication to all, how would you feel about continuing to fund them? It doesn't come down to a pro-choice vs pro-life decision for me (for the record, I am mainly pro-choice), it comes down to a For The Greater Good, if you will. If we can get a handle on the many millions of people that die from Cancer, Heart Disease, Infectious Disease, etc each year, then maybe we can start going for more precise targets such as abortion deaths.