When Sexism is Deadly

Kathleen Reeves

Indifference to maternal mortality is closely related to indifference to women’s reproductive rights.

Nicholas Kristof takes a hard look at maternal and infant mortality through the case of one woman in Pakistan. He takes the woman’s family to task for refusing to take her to a hospital, and in doing so, criticizes the cultural mores in Pakistan that lead to the death of her baby. But the real targets of his criticism are the industrialized nations who have failed to make maternal and infant mortality a priority in their aid to poorer countries.

On the ignorance and negligence of her family members, Kristof writes:

The family discussed taking her to the hospital, but the obstacle was the 300 rupee taxi fare. . . . Shazia’s in-laws truly are poor, but it’s hard to imagine that they would have balked if it had been a man in the family who was in danger — or if they had known that Shazia was carrying a baby boy.

Indeed, Kristof believes that the larger neglect of maternal health is a product of sexism. After Shazia’s C-section, which is performed too late to save her son, Kristof visits the squalid hospital ward and talks to the woman’s husband:

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

Outside, her husband, Allahdita, was grieving but philosophical. “It is God’s will,” he said, shrugging. “There is nothing we can do.”

That’s incorrect. If men had uteruses, “paternity wards” would get resources, ambulances would transport pregnant men to hospitals free of charge, deliveries would be free, and the Group of 8 industrialized nations would make paternal mortality a top priority. One of the most lethal forms of sex discrimination is this systematic inattention to reproductive health care, from family planning to childbirth — so long as those who die are impoverished, voiceless women.

It’s hard to argue with Kristof’s alternate reality. After all, in the reality we live in, erectile dysfunction drugs are covered by insurance, while hormonal contraception is not. Surely the society that pays for sexual performance drugs for men would also pay for their needs during pregnancy and childbirth.

Kristof touches on another, vital point when he mentions family planning. Indifference to maternal mortality is closely related to indifference to women’s contraceptive needs. A society that doesn’t value a woman’s right to control her fertility is not likely to support her needs and choices about childbirth and childrearing, either. While anti-choicers profess to care about babies and children, many in the movement have done little or nothing to elevate maternal health to a level of greater importance. The state of reproductive health—which includes everything from access to contraceptives in America to the right of a Pakistani woman to go to a hospital during a difficult labor—testifies to the fact that sexism is alive and well, here and abroad.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Clarifies Position on Federal Funding for Abortion, Is ‘for the Hyde Amendment’

Ally Boguhn

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s running mate, clarified during an interview with CNN on Friday that he still supports the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

During Kaine’s appearance on New Day, host Alisyn Camerota asked the Democrat’s vice presidential nominee whether he was “for or against” the ban on funding for abortion. Kaine replied that he had “been for the Hyde Amendment,” adding “I haven’t changed my position on that.”

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told CNN on Sunday that Kaine had “said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment.” Another Clinton spokesperson later clarified to the network that Kaine’s commitment had been “made privately.”

The Democratic Party voiced its support for rolling back the restriction on federal funding for abortion care in its platform, which was voted through this week.

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

“We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment,” reads the platform.

Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard that he was not aware that the party had put language outlining support for repealing Hyde into the platform, noting that he had “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Clinton has repeatedly said that she supports Hyde’s repeal, calling the abortion care restriction “hard to justify.”

Abortion rights advocates say that Hyde presents a major obstacle to abortion access in the United States.

“The Hyde amendment is a violent piece of legislation that keeps anyone on Medicaid from accessing healthcare and denies them full control over their lives,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said in a statement. “Whether or not folks believe in the broken U.S. political system, we are all impacted by the policies that it produces. … Abortion access issues go well beyond insurance and the ability to pay, but removing the Hyde Amendment will take us light years closer to where we need to be.”

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

Like This Story?

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

Donate Now

Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.