Today, Rewire welcomes a new regular staff blogger, Andrea Lynch, who will cover international issues from her vantage point in Brighton, England, and later this summer from Nicaragua. Her first blog post Colombia Leads the Way in Latin America coincides with an editorial on the same topic in today's New York Times that states in Colombia and much of Latin America "unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of maternal mortality. The health dangers are not shared equally, as wealthier women can pay competent doctors, while poor ones must resort to unsafe clinics or, worse, do it themselves."
The abortion issue has been dominant in headlines recently. As the importance of it as a public health and women's rights issue matures in other parts of the world, ideological leaders in the US would roll back the progress being made in reducing abortions by keeping them safe, legal and rare.
But what began as an effort to stop abortion by ideologues has become a full frontal attack on a range of reproductive health, highlighted by an attempt to undermine rigrous science in the process. In a world where nothing can be proven, the world the ideologues seek, then nothing can be certain. Science, when current understanding is proven wrong, celebrates advancement and new understanding. Ideologues confronted with fact, cling to flat-earth beliefs, refusing progress.
When ideologues take over scientific institutions that taxpayers rely on to protect them from disease and to be prepared in case of tragedy, the result can undermine public trust and sicentific morale as it apprently has at the CDC. A Senate Committee announced today it will investigate morale and the current brain drain at CDC where, "Employees have told the committee that measurement tools written by scientific experts are 'consistently rejected or rewritten' by managers lacking scientific or technical expertise."
In Italy, the Vatican is throwing its considerable weight around the efforts of two female governmental ministers to openly talk about RU-486, the prescribed abortion medicine. It is the same fight that has recently ensnared the FDA, CDC and US Congress, and as discussed yesterday about the upcoming UN Special Session on HIV, it is no wonder that these debates have so much in common.
The common factor is not abortion, but rather a comprehensive attack on science that is using abortion politics as a bludgeon to undermine contraception, public health, HIV and STD prevention and promote one belief system over all others.
Often, that reckless rhetoric does harm to innocents as witnessed in the stats from Colombia and Latin America, and in Buffalo, New York. Admitted sniper James Kopp will defend himself in a Buffalo court on charges he violated clinic access laws when he shot and killed Dr. Barnett Slepian in 1998.
But where consensus prevails over extremism, requiring sacrafice and compromise from all, we see progress, as in Malawi, another African nation hard-hit by HIV/AIDS that reports the rate of infection is stabilizing. Earlier this week reports from Kenya indicated the same, only to be undermined by careless ideological comments from the first lady of Kenya one day later.
As the world community prepares to gather in New York next week to review progress on HIV and AIDS its important to note that today, more than 17 million women live with HIV worldwide, and three out of four are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS. In the United States, AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African American women 25 to 34. In Latin America, the rate of new HIV infections among women is almost double of that among men. As Yolanda C. Richardson from the Centre for Development and Poulation Activities (CEDPA) stated, "We will not turn around the epidemic unless we take bold actions that redirect policies, funding and programs to reflect the global face of AIDS—which is increasingly women and girls."
Public health issues require all parties to compromise to find solution. It is evident that progressive policies around the world offer the best opportunity to promote women's rights, access to public health, comprehensive approaches to sex education and disease prevention — and through those proven methods, reduce abortion and disease while improving the lives of millions. People can believe what they choose, but the evidence is clear, comprehensive solutions acheive real results. Stay tuned to Rewire as we prepare to cover the UN Special Session on HIV live from New York on this blog, and offer more innovative first-person accounts of the proposals for real solutions here leading up to those meetings.