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  • Abortion Advance and Retreat

    January 23rd, 2015

     

    by Janet Madsen  |  @janet_madsen

    January 22 was the anniversary of Roe vs Wade; the American legal decision that ruled women should have the option to choose an abortion as part of reproductive health care services. line_MarcoMaru

    There are many in the States who have never accepted that 1973 ruling. Anti-abortion groups have and continue to do all they can to limit women’s access to sexual health services, including abortion options. They take their views to extreme measures- abortion care providers have been killed for their work in pursuit of the anti-choice cause.

    “Anti-choice activists have never hid the fact that they want Roe v. Wade overturned…. It’s hard to think of one of the many nightmare scenarios of what life would be like in a post-Roe world that isn’t already taking place somewhere in this country.” 

    What Would Change If ‘Roe’ Were Overturned?

    Letters to Justice Blackmun Offer Glimpse of Public’s Post-‘Roe’ Reactions gives a view into the conflicted feelings people have about abortion vs the important rights of women to steer their reproductive lives. People may be strongly pro-choice for women’s rights in general, but not in favour of abortion for themselves. A decision about an abortion is not necessarily pro-kid or anti-kid either- six in ten American women having abortions already have kids.

    Here in Canada our history of abortion is also littered with violence against abortion providers, criminal charges and jail stays for those determined to support women’s rights to reproductive choices. Abortion is legal and theoretically available, although in reality this isn’t always the case. Women living on Prince Edward Island must leave the province to get an abortion, and abortion care is often available only in larger urban areas, making it difficult for those who live in rural areas. Accessing care is especially hard for women with less money- true for lots of health issues.

    And we can’t assume abortion is a guarantee here, either. In 2012 a Conservative MP introduced a motion to examine when life begins. This type of move could lead to pitting the rights of a pregnant woman against those of a fetus she’s carrying. Thankfully, the motion was defeated. In a piece last year, authors Paul Saurette and Kelly Gordon suggest

    “A renewed [abortion] debate might not only serve to further solidify abortion rights… It might also be an opportunity to press politicians to finally reduce the remaining barriers to access across Canada.”

    When and if it arises, I hope it solidifies access and improves conditions. Women deserve it.  If you want read more on the politics of abortion, read this great interview with Katha Pollitt about her book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.

     

    Photo: MarcoMaru, MorgueFile

     

    Uganda shows value of free education in the fight against HIV

    January 16th, 2015

    by Erin Seatter | @erinlynds

    The benefits of universal education are well documented, with resultant campaigns for all children to attend primary and secondary schooling. Among the outrageously fantastic list of outcomes, a decline in HIV transmission among girls can now be added.

    Image by Sean MacEntee.

    Image by Sean MacEntee.

    In 1997 the Ugandan government abolished fees for primary schooling, and in 2007 did so for secondary schooling. NAM Aidsmap has reported on a study showing that this move boosted school attendance among girls and provided them with remarkable protection against HIV.

    Students are having their first sexual experience later and marrying later, and those who are sexually active are having fewer partners. The researchers suggest that “29% of the decline in HIV incidence in adolescent girls can be attributed to fewer infections among girls who are sexually experienced. Of more importance, 71% of the decline in incidence can be attributed to the delay in sexual debut. Furthermore, this change was entirely attributed to the improvement in school attendance.”

    However, this protection does not last into adulthood, for reasons not explored in the article. Poverty, employment opportunities, and gender relations likely figure in.

    Uganda’s introduction of free schooling followed decades of structural adjustment policies in the wake of independence from British colonial rule in 1962. Ramping up in the 1980s, structural adjustment programs were the favoured intervention by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, where the remedy for the poverty wrought by the colonial carve-up of Africa was to foist a Western free-market agenda onto “developing” countries. Developing countries were granted loans, but only when governments agreed to pursue a neoliberal agenda that included public worker layoffs and wage suppression. Vital services such as health care and education were attacked through funding cuts, privatization, and the imposition of user fees. As countries used the loans to finance their debts, moving money into Western pockets, they spent less on public services.

    In Uganda, as in other places, incomes fell as prices rose, while health and education services, which were previously free, became commodities. Females are “more likely to be deprived of health and education services when they are in short supply,” notes a report on the impact of structural adjustment programs in the country. In assessing the significant impacts of universal education for health and gender, the urgency to expand access to schooling and improve the quality of education becomes clear.