Roundup: Condoms Trump Abstinence in Obama Global AIDS Policy

Brady Swenson

Obama will reverse reckless, ideological health policy at home and abroad; An Indian Supreme Court decision allows husbands to divorce if wife obtains abortion without his consent; Illinois keeps abortion off license plates; Christian right faces crossroads; and more.

Condoms Trump Abstinence in Obama Global AIDS Policy

President-elect Barack Obama will
reverse U.S. family-planning and AIDS-prevention strategies
that
have long linked global funding to anti-abortion and abstinence
education, a public-health adviser told Bloomberg:

Public-health policies of President George W. Bush’s $45-
billion PEPFAR program have brought AIDS drugs to almost 3
million people in poor countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, more
than under any other president. Still, requirements that health
workers emphasize abstinence from sex and monogamy over condom
use have set back sexually transmitted disease prevention and
family planning globally, said Susan F. Wood, co-chairman of
Obama’s advisory committee for women’s health.

"We have been going in the wrong direction and we need to
turn it around and be promoting prevention and family-planning
services and strengthening public health,” said Wood, a
research professor at George Washington University School of
Public Health in Washington.

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Obama "is committed to looking at all this and changing
the policies so that family-planning services — both in the
U.S. and the developing world — reflect what works, what helps
prevent unintended pregnancy, reduce maternal and infant
mortality, prevent the spread of disease,” Wood said.

Obama will bring “back a sense of balance and perspective
and the use of good science and good medicine in these
positions, and not just this narrow, political ideology,” she
said.

 

Defeating Individual Choice: Linking Abortion & Marital Consent in India

On November 7th an Indian Supreme Court Bench held that an abortion by a woman without her husband’s consent will amount to mental cruelty.  In India mental cruelty is an established legal ground for divorce, thus the ruling would allow a husband to divorce his wife for obtaining an abortion without his consent:

In an already tapered-down scenario, it is humbly stated that the SC through its recent judgment in Suman Kapur v. Sudhir Kapur(Nov.
7, 2008) has further exacerbated the submissive condition on women in
our society. The Hon’ble Court has virtually stated that the husband’s
consent is mandatory before a foetal abortion is made: by linking the
absence of consent to mental cruelty, the Apex Court has given the
already-dominant male partner a trump-card of sorts to enforce his
preferences on a matter critically relevant to women. Perhaps the
Hon’ble Court may have been guided by the pressing need to endorse
consensual decisions in the family. However, the judgment cannot be
read in isolation from prevalent societal circumstances, and one can
regretfully point out the existence of anything but a level-playing
field.

 

Court Keeps Abortion Off License Plates

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Illinois secretary of
state’s office does not have to issue specialty license plates bearing
the slogan ”Choose Life” favored by anti-abortion forces:

”It has authorized neither a pro-life plate nor a pro-choice plate,”
the court said. ”It has done so on the reasonable rationale that
messages on specialty license plates give the appearance of having the
government’s endorsement, and Illinois does not wish to be perceived as
endorsing any position on abortion.”

 

Down but not Demoralized Over Obama Victory, Christian Right Faces Another Crossroads

It is fair to say that last Tuesday’s election was a setback for the Christian Right.  Their party lost seats in both houses of Congress, lost the White House and lost most of the state-level ballot initiatives they backed around the country, including all those that sought to limit a woman’s right to choose.  Still the Christian Right is still a large and well organized political force and they question is not whether or not they will regroup and be heard from in future political struggles but rather the question is about how they regroup.  Talking Points Memo‘s Eric Gorski investigates the possibility that unsung leaders of the Christian Right who advocate consensus-building and expanding the agenda to include global poverty and the environment might have an opening to take the movement in that more bi-partisan, broader direction:

Joel Hunter, an Orlando, Fla., megachurch pastor, fits that
definition. Hunter, 60, is anti-abortion but also signed a statement on
climate change and has denounced "hateful immigration rhetoric." He
also delivered the closing prayer at this summer’s Democratic National
Convention and prayed with Obama by phone Tuesday before the
president-elect took the stage in Chicago’s Grant Park.

"What
really works in this country is not inciting the base, but making
partnerships with people with different views to advance your agenda,"
Hunter said. "Those who don’t will marginalize themselves politically.
I don’t think advancement of a cause primarily by attack is the way of
the future."

On gay rights, Hunter said evangelicals can
find a home in coalitions that support restricting the institution of
marriage to one man and one woman but advocate that gays be able to
form legal relationships short of marriage — and that no one face job
discrimination.

There was some evidence Tuesday that younger evangelicals are drawn
to a wider agenda. While younger white evangelicals did not go en
masse to Obama, the Democrat made significant inroads. Exit polls
showed the proportion of white evangelicals under age 30 who backed
Obama this year was double the 16 percent who supported Kerry in 2004.

Four years ago, white evangelicals under 30 were even stronger Bush supporters than those over 50.

"It’s
too early to say this portends really badly for Republicans in the
future and means Democrats are going to pick up a lot of support from
the evangelical community for the next 20 years," said D. Michael
Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist who specializes in evangelicals
and politics. "Younger evangelicals desperately wanted a change because
they were so disappointed in the Bush administration."

 

Fractures Within Antiabortion Movement Helped Doom Ballot Initiatives

The Tennesean says that divisions among anti-choice organizations helped to doom the anti-choice initiatives on the ballot last week to failure:

Hard-line anti-abortion groups like the American Life League opposed
the South Dakota ballot measure because it had exceptions. Two years
ago, South Dakota voters rejected a statewide abortion ban that did not
contain exceptions.

Other groups like Americans United for Life
and National Right to Life did not support the Colorado measure,
questioning its timing and the wisdom of its all-or-nothing approach.

"Some
of the strongest opponents of abortion may have been responsible for
(the South Dakota) measure’s defeat," said Bob Burns, a retired South
Dakota State University political science professor. "South Dakota
Right to Life made a public statement that they opposed the initiative
because of the exceptions — they took an absolutist position. The
Catholic Church had an ambivalent position."

 

What Obama’s Win Could Mean for Women’s Health in America and Around the World

Two reads worth your time gather up likely changes to women’s health policy under an Obama administration.  Check out Deborah Kotz’s post, of the U.S. News and World Report‘s On Women blog, that lists 7 women’s health issues that Obama will likely change once in office including an end to federal funding of abstinence-only programs, ending the global gag rule and increase in funding for family planning clinics serving the uninsured.  Also Juhie Bhatia’s post at Global Voices Online, for a roundup of international reaction to Obama’s election and hopes for changes to America’s foreign health policy.  

 

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