Human Rights Policy and Nonprofit Organizational Development

Policy Blog: Global Gag Rule and maternal health

In Policy Blog on February 12, 2009 at 9:29 pm

In a statement accompanying the act that repealed the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, Obama said that offices and officials in his administration will have “the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies. They will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls.”

Family Care international, an NGO working on maternal health issues, has joined forces with colleagues to offer policy recommendations to the new administration.

Key actions range from the immediate — like repealing the Global Gag Rule and restoring funding to the UN Population Fund — to a number of bigger-picture goals. Specifically, FCI and its partners are calling for the U.S. government to allocate $1.3 billion for maternal and newborn health in 2010, and for an additional $1 billion allocation to support family planning programs. The community is also urging the Administration to develop a comprehensive, evidence-based Maternal and Newborn Health Emergency Action Plan, and to take the lead in global efforts to provide universal access to life-saving health care for mothers and newborns in the developing world.

Obama has embraced international treaties and agreements and international human rights law more than any previous American president, and has said that the U.S. will adopt the Millennium Development Goals under his administration.  

Maternal health is Goal 5.  According to an MDG Fact Sheet,

Estimates for 2005 show that, every minute, a woman died of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.  This adds up to more than 500,000 women annually and 10 million over a generation. Almost all of these women – 99 per cent – live and die in developing countries.

Maternal mortality shows the greatest disparity among countries: in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk of dying from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth over the course of her lifetime is 1 in 22, compared to 1 in 7,300 in developed regions. Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless and vulnerable because of maternal death. 

In many countries, unsafe clandestine abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality, a fact which has been decried by the international human rights community and numerous treaty interpreting bodies.  The risk of abortion procedures performed in a safe, clinical environment is extremely low, making those deaths wholly unnecessary.

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