Our guest bloggers are Jessica Arons, the Director of the Women’s Health & Rights Program at the Center for American Progress.
International Women’s Day is a good time to hit the pause button on all the debate swarming around abortion and contraception in Congress, the states, and on the campaign trail, and consider what our country would look like if antichoice zealots had their way in further restricting access to contraception and abortion.
Right now, around the world, women are suffering in countries where they have no access to basic reproductive health care and no say over when, whether, and under what circumstances they have children.
Let’s start with the unmet need for family planning. According to the United Nations Population Fund, at least 200 million women want access to safe and effective contraception but lack information, services, and family or community support. Even worse, this unmet need is expected to grow by 40 percent over the next 15 years. The lack of access to voluntary family planning services means that these women cannot plan the timing and spacing of their pregnancies in order to improve health outcomes for themselves and their children. The result: high rates of maternal and infant mortality, fewer opportunities for women to obtain education and income to support their families, and significant strain on family and community resources.
In much of the world, childbirth is also still a highly dangerous event. Globally there are approximately 350,000 maternal deaths per year, averaging out to about 1,000 deaths per day. Hemorrhaging, infections, eclampsia (a condition that may involve seizures or coma), obstructed labor, and unsafe abortion are the most common reasons women die in pregnancy or childbirth. And all could be averted with timely access to skilled care. But only 58 percent of women in the developing world are able to labor with assistance from a doctor or midwife and only 4 in 10 give birth in a health facility.