Unconcerned About Women’s Health

Eesha Pandit

A common tactic used by opponents of reproductive justice is to feign interest in women's health and well-being. An example of anti-woman dogma dressed in health rhetoric is Concerned Women for America.

An increasingly common tactic used by opponents of reproductive justice is to feign an interest in women's health and well-being. A perfect example of anti-woman dogma dressed in health rhetoric is the deceptively named group, Concerned Women for America (CWA). Of late, CWA has been outspoken on their support of the National Abortion Ban. They have also repeatedly voiced opposition to the women's human rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination of All Forms (CEDAW). These days, the conservative women's group has turned its attention beyond the borders of this country.

A couple of recent articles about the Global Gag Rule in Kenya on the CWA website create the perfect occasion for laying bare some of their faulty logic. As Rewire has repeatedly reported, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is a policy rife with contradictions and implementation problems. These, of course, are not to mention the well-documented ineffectiveness of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs both here in the United States and abroad.

In this recent spate of interviews and articles, CWA has again demonstrated their aversion to facts and documented research on family planning policy, coupled with a laughable insistence that they are indeed concerned with women's health and well-being by advocating policies that deny women the information and resources they need to make safe and informed decisions. In an interview with Kenyan doctor Joseph Ofisi, who is now studying in the United States, CWA claims that "an abortion agenda" is being pushed by international NGO's like the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). According to Ofisi, these groups target doctors by offering, "extravagant conferences in 5 star hotels where the abortion agenda was pushed and doctors taught the techniques of abortion procedure." In Ofisi's opinion, these conferences are advertised as a forum to learn "new techniques in reproductive health," but instead turn out to be abortion training seminars. Without offering any evidence, Ofisi states that doctors who offer abortion services in their villages are paid three times as much as doctors who do not and that these physicians are "paid by the number of abortions they commit."

Now for the reality check: What Ofisi and CWA conveniently ignore is the fact that many doctors risk their entire practice and livelihood by offering reproductive health services that deviate from the abstinence-only model. Instead of being wined and dined and rewarded, they are at threat of losing their clinics altogether. A 2006 study on Kenya found that many reproductive health care clinics are forcibly closed as a result of the Global Gag Rule. Often, these clinics provided a range of health care services to poor and under-served areas. In addition to family planning services they offered voluntary counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health services, pharmaceutical services, laboratory services and even minor surgery and infant care. If these "concerned women" were, in fact, concerned about women's health they would acknowledge the importance of access to a full range of health care services as crucial to women's health and well-being.

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Instead of taking every chance to attack NGO's like IPPF and never missing an opportunity to demean those health care providers who assume great risks by offering crucial health services to women who need them, CWA should direct their attention to offering support for the claims they make about the real effects of the Global Gag Rule and PEPFAR on community health in African countries like Kenya.

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