Partnership Fails on RH Issues

Rupert Walder

Ministers from the developed and developing world launched a new International Health Partnership, but the partnership only referenced, rather than committed to, reproductive health.

At the end of last month, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ministers from both the developed and developing world launched a new International Health Partnership (IHP) designed to "achieve the Health Millennium Development Goals." The IHP will aim to improve health systems, create better coordination amongst donors, and improve developing countries' own health plans. There is reference to reproductive health in the IHP agreements, but predictably it remains a mention rather than a strong commitment.

"It is a pity that reproductive health is not explicitly mentioned as a prime target [in the IHP]," says Tony Worthington, a Minister in the Blair Government and a leading member of the Government's Select Committee on International Development. "Coordination is important, but so is courage. The lack of courage in putting reproductive health at the center of the Millennium Development Goals has lessened the fight against infant and maternal deaths and deepened poverty."

Worthington, who is now Chair of the Safe Hands For Motherhood NGO, argues that good reproductive health – including action to prevent HIV/AIDS – is the central building block of good health. "We have not said that because others are afraid of the truth and it has cost the poor dearly. This new partnership should start by returning to another international health partnership, the pledges of the Cairo Conference in 1994 and honoring them. We would then see that this IHP is not just words," he says.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation agrees that health systems do need to be strengthened and that there is an urgent need for greater harmonization by donor agencies. However, IPPF also believes a focus on all aspects of maternal health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, is vital if the Millennium Development Goals are to be reached, and remains concerned that there is only one mention of reproductive health in the IHP agreement.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

"We are concerned that areas of public health that are considered controversial in some countries, such as unsafe abortion, will be neglected unless sufficient focus is placed upon these issues by donor agencies and recipient countries. Likewise, we remain concerned that the role of civil society in the IHP has and continues to be at the margins of the negotiations and discussions," said an IPPF spokesperson.

"In terms of support to reproductive health, show me the plans with these [reproductive health] issues well articulated and linked to nationally agreed Mid Term Expenditure Frameworks and comprehensive monitoring and evaluation frameworks both targeting the poor – then I will think this new IHP will effect change," says one international health systems expert.

These three perspectives from a politician, the world's largest reproductive health NGO, and a health systems expert suggest it will be a hard struggle to promote reproductive health in the IHP. Another missed opportunity? Or perhaps an oversight, which could be redressed with some hard lobbying as the IHP rolls forwards?

News Sexual Health

Congress Fails to Act on Zika Before Seven-Week Recess

Christine Grimaldi

There was no last-minute deal on funding to address the Zika virus, even in the middle of mosquito season.

In the midst of summer mosquito season, the U.S. Congress is set to recess until September without taking action on the Zika virus.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate Thursday again blocked Republicans’ proposal for $1.1 billion in funding for the mosquito-borne virus linked to microcephaly and other fetal brain defects. The GOP-engineered agreement falls short of the $1.9 billion that the Obama administration staunchly contends is needed to combat Zika. The Senate plan also restricts what advocates consider to be essential contraceptive access, even though the virus can be sexually transmitted.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue condemned Senate Republicans for their response to Zika.

“Instead of digging deep to adequately respond to this global health threat, anti-choice Republicans are trying to restrict funding for the very clinics and health care that allow women to plan for healthy families,” she said in a statement. “Their constant claim that they are dedicated to ‘protecting the unborn’ falls flat when they refuse to give women the resources we need to bear healthy children.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives previously passed even less Zika funding—$622.1 million. House Republicans made a separate attempt to limit contraceptive access through gutting Title X in the appropriations process. “It is particularly foolish to target Title X at a time when the nation is at the precipice of a public health emergency resulting from the Zika virus,” National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association President and CEO Clare Coleman said in a statement at the time.

Republicans insisted that their various plans protected women’s health, contrary to Democrats’ characterization of the plans as attacks on the same. Partisan bickering aside, Congress failed to strike a last-minute deal before a seven-week recess as Zika cases are already on the rise.

As of July 7, nine infants with Zika-related birth defects had been born in the continental United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As many as 346 pregnant people in the United States and 303 in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, may have the Zika virus, the CDC found.

Commentary Abortion

Standing Under Sprinklers, Missouri Activists Turn Tables on Anti-Choice Community

Pamela Merritt

Missouri legislators protect and fund crisis pregnancy centers, while ignoring how their constituents are affected by violence and health-care disparities. A new campaign is taking to the streets to refocus their attention.

When I found out in 2015 that anti-choice politicians in Missouri had formed the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, I was outraged that they planned to use valuable time and money to bully Planned Parenthood with yet another baseless investigation.

My second thought was that I wished someone would form a committee to investigate the real issues that threaten the lives of Missourians every day.

Erin Matson and I co-founded Reproaction because we believe in the power of direct action; that the current state of abortion access is a manmade humanitarian crisis; and that people must have the right to decide whether to parent and to live in communities free of violence and oppression.

Those core values inspired us to launch the Show-Me Accountability Campaign in Missouri on June 29. Through the campaign we are leading direct actions to hold members of the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life accountable, and demanding Missouri politicians work on the real challenges our communities and neighbors face, such as gun violence and Black infant mortality.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Missourians deserve access to health care and safe communities, but that’s not the focus of anti-choice legislators. Instead, our lawmakers choose to persecute abortion providers and dish out tax credits to sham crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

Missourians have had enough. That’s what brought local progressive activists together, led by Reproaction Missouri organizer Zoe Krause, to launch Show-Me Accountability. We gathered on the sidewalk in front of Thrive, one of at least 65 CPCs anti-choice lawmakers champion despite the fact that the centers have a history of lying to patients seeking reproductive health care. Missouri lawmakers have even pushed legislation to guarantee CPCs aren’t subject to regulation or oversight. We chose Thrive as the location of our launch to illustrate the contrast between what Missouri politicians fund, prioritize, and protect, versus what Missourians actually need them to focus on.

Someone turned the sprinklers on at Thrive just as activists started showing up, providing a nonstop shower that drenched people walking or standing on much of the sidewalk in front of the building. It was an old-school disruption move that made it clear they knew we were coming and weren’t happy about it. We shifted down the sidewalk and started to get in formation.

Several interns from Thrive came outside and tried to physically disrupt our work by repeatedly moving between activists and attempting to surround us. But when we engaged them in conversation, they didn’t appear to know much about the services Thrive provides or that CPCs get tax credits in Missouri. As our speakers began their remarks, Thrive counselors in bright orange vests held signs and guarded the walkway up to the building. I’m familiar with the vests and signs because they are usually seen stationed in front of Missouri’s only abortion provider a few blocks away.

The speakers were amazing, their topics a damning indictment of the issues that wither on the vine in Jefferson City while politicians compete for the attention of anti-abortion lobbyists. Kirstin Palovick, organizer for the grassroots LGBT equality organization PROMO, explained why it hurts our state that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Missouri can be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied access to public accommodations and services. Cicely Paine, fellowship manager at CoreAlign and board chair for Community Birth and Wellness, shared her experience as a sex educator in Missouri, where access to comprehensive sex education is not a right enjoyed by all. Mustafa Abdullah, lead organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, passionately detailed the real-world consequences of racial disparities in policing and why police violence is a reproductive justice issue.

I was the final speaker and used my time to talk about why the Black infant mortality rate is a public health crisis worthy of attention and urgency. We ended with chants and a few dances through the shower provided by Thrive’s sprinkler system.

The timing for our campaign launch couldn’t have been better. Shortly after the action at Thrive, the chair of the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life announced that there would be a press conference in Jefferson City to discuss a report detailing the results of their “work.” So, Zoe and I took a road trip to the Missouri capitol to witness firsthand what the committee had to say and ask some questions.

At around 1 p.m., several anti-choice members of the committee, including chair Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), gathered in the fourth floor mezzanine in the capitol. Neither Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) nor Sen. Maria Chappelle Nadal (D-St. Louis), the only pro-choice members of the committee, were in attendance. Neither contributed to the report.

As expected, the yearlong investigation found no evidence that tissue has been illegally sold. Sen. Schaefer acknowledged that the report was not an official report of the committee. Instead, the senators used the press conference to fuss about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision and voice their frustration over not having uncovered much of anything.

“What is clear is there are many things that are unclear,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) said during the press conference.

On that one point, I agree.

It remains unclear how much this investigation cost Missourians. We deserve a proper accounting for just how much we invested in this farce. But when Reproaction’s Zoe Krause asked that question during the press conference, the senators refused to answer.

It remains unclear why a committee formed under the title “Sanctity of Life” failed to investigate why Missourians are at risk of being killed by gun-wielding toddlers, why gun deaths surpass deaths resulting from car accidents, or why Black women are three times more likely to have an infant die before the child’s first birthday.

What is clear is that the committee’s press conference was partisan because the committee formed as a platform for anti-choice propaganda. It is clear that the anti-abortion videos used as the excuse for forming the committee have been thoroughly debunked.

Sadly, it is more than clear that some members of the committee think they can get away with wasting the people’s time trying to score political points with anti-choice groups.

We drove away from the capitol more committed than ever to the Show-Me Accountability Campaign. Missourians deserve legislators who will prioritize real-world issues, and we will demand accountability from those who fail to do so. Media coverage of our launch has already sparked long-overdue discussions about the damaging consequences of our state legislature’s misplaced priorities.

That’s the kind of fertile soil accountability can grow in, and we intend to see it grow in Missouri. We are in this for dignity, justice, and liberation. And we’re just getting started.