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Global Gag Rule Blamed for Abortion Deaths in Ethiopia

The San Francisco Chronicle (CA) reported December 12 that most family planning groups in Ethiopia condemn the U.S. policy banning abortion referrals and services by federally funded agencies, the "global gag rule," saying it could not have come at a worse time for Ethiopian women. "Hospitals tell us they still see many deaths from illegal abortions," said Amare Bedada, Executive Director of the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia. "If we are going to keep women healthy and alive, we have to provide abortion-related advice." Last year, the Family Guidance Association lost $3.9 million in U.S. funding after lobbying the Ethiopian government to legalize abortion and refusing to sign a declaration from Pathfinder International, a USAID partner organization that demanded it halt all abortion-related services. The loss almost forced the association to close several clinics, but the David and Lucile Packard Foundation stepped in to cover the loss. Read: San Francisco Chronicle

Abortion in Swaziland Remains Controversial

Inter Press Service reported December 9 that the new draft Swaziland constitution bans abortion but includes exceptions and an option for its eventual legalization, illustrating the ambiguous feelings of most Swazis toward the procedure. ”Swazis hate abortion, the taking of little Swazi lives,” said nurse Abigail Dube of the central town of Manzini. But she noted many in the medical profession and the public concede a need for abortion in some circumstances, and the constitution reflects that view. Read: Inter Press Service

Vatican Defends Anti-Condom Stance on World AIDS Day

The Irish Times (Ireland) reported December 2 that to mark World AIDS Day the Vatican strongly reiterated its opposition to the use of condoms, saying fidelity, chastity and abstinence were the best ways to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in a "pan-sexualist society.” Meanwhile the international group Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) launched in Washington what it called "a new global public education effort to counter Vatican misinformation on condoms," using the slogan "Good Catholics Use Condoms." Frances Kissling, President of the CFFC, accused the Vatican of having an "irresponsible attitude towards condoms and Catholics." Cardinals and bishops "must promote a culture of life in which responsible sexuality and AIDS prevention are linked; not a culture of death which will result in more AIDS-ravaged communities, especially in the developing world," she said. Read: Reuters


A December 1 editorial by The Hartford Courant (CT) cited statistics showing that every day around the world, more than 70,000 teenage girls are married, many against their will, and nearly 40,000 give birth, sometimes in ignorance and under filthy conditions. “These numbing facts were presented by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, on the occasion of World Population Day in July. They seem to have had had little impact on the Bush administration, which has refused to fund $34 million of the money allocated by Congress for this humanitarian agency to do its vital work in 140 countries.” The editorial urged that the funding be restored. “This is a humanitarian issue, not a political one.” Jane Roberts, Co-Founder of the 34 Million Friends of UNFPA campaign, responded to the editorial in a December 4 letter by saying, “Congratulations to The Courant on its Dec. 1 editorial ["Make Maternal Health A Priority"] supporting the humanitarian work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)…As I told the people of Mali and Senegal when I was there visiting UNFPA clinics in February, although our government has chosen not to participate in the work of UNFPA, we the people are doing our best to right this wrong.” Read: Hartford Courant: Editorial and Dec. 4 letter


Religious and Faith-Based Groups Find UNFPA Funding Should Be Restored

Agence France-Presse reported November 20 that a recent report by a delegation of faith-based organizations determined that funding to the UNFPA should be restored, and called on the United States to drop a "punitive" approach to family planning in China. "There is no involvement of the UNFPA in anything that is remotely coercive within China and in fact they are engaged in creating quality of care, women centered, choice-oriented programs," said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. We urge the U.S. government to change its policy and engage more directly and with greater assistance to the Chinese family planning program. Will President Bush turn a deaf ear to the voices of leaders of religious and faith-based organizations who are not right-wing?" Read: Agence France-Presse and Catholics for a Free Choice’s press release


“The reality is that condoms no more cause sex than umbrellas cause rain,” wrote Nicholas Kristof in his November 26 column in The New York Times criticizing the Vatican’s stance against condom use in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Kristof noted that in El Salvador, at the grass roots, the Catholic Church is a vibrant, flexible organization enormously different from the out-of-touch Vatican. At the Catholic-run hospital in Sonsonate, doctors tell women about IUD's and the pill – and especially about using condoms to protect against AIDS. "The bishop is in San Salvador and never comes here," explains Dr. Martha Alica De Regalada. "So we never get in trouble." Kristof concluded: “Let's hope the Vatican will learn from its priests and nuns on the ground, who do so much heroic work fighting the disease.”

A November 25 story by BBC News also touched on the Vatican’s stance, reporting that Father Valeriano Paitoni, an Italian priest who works with AIDS patients in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is one of the Vatican's fiercest critics. "AIDS is a world epidemic, a public health problem that must be confronted with scientific advances and methods that have proven effective," he said. "Rejecting condom use is to oppose the fight for life." The Scotsman (UK) reported November 30 that on the eve of World AIDS Day the US-based Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) said it was launching a publicity campaign to “counter Vatican misinformation.” The effort was beginning in Washington with a poster campaign which would spread from the U.S. capital across the world by next year, the group said. Their message will be, “Good Catholics Use Condoms” – a direct challenge to the cardinals and bishops who have recently claimed that condoms were helping to spread HIV/AIDS.” Read: New York Times, BBC News, The Scotsman

Haiti: U.S.-Funded Abstinence Education Gets Mixed Reviews

A November 30 story by the Associated Press reported that the abstinence message funded by the Bush administration is getting mixed reviews in Haiti, where AIDS has infected 5 percent of its 8 million people. Although HIV has leveled off in some age groups, it is increasing among Haitians aged 15 to 24. AP noted fans of the abstinence campaign say Haiti can learn from Uganda, which lowered its rate of infection from 15 to 5 percent, reportedly with the "ABC" approach –Abstain from sex, Be faithful to one partner, and use Condoms. But Uganda has a 5 percent economic growth rate, high literacy and a stable government. Half of Haitians are illiterate and most are jobless in the face of negative economic growth under a president whose policies have caused international donors to suspend aid. "In Haiti, we cannot work with the government," says Lester Munson, chief of staff for the Global Health Bureau of USAID. "In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni was very committed publicly to fighting AIDS. In Haiti, it's more complicated." Read: Associated Press


On November 30, the St .Paul Pioneer Press (MN) ran an op ed by Pathfinder International President Daniel Pellegrom in time for World AIDS Day. “As a nation to whom so much has been given, we have an unprecedented opportunity to help make a difference in the fight against AIDS. To do so will require our government to commit to the following initiatives: Restore funding for the United Nations Population Fund; Repeal the Global Gag Rule; and Fully fund Bush's AIDS initiative. Make a long-term commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.” Pellegrom concluded: “…The opportunity exists to make a difference and create positive change for families who face an epidemic that threatens their future. We talk of leading – will we also step up to the challenge and make the policy decisions that can help address the crisis? Will we fund the U.N.? Repeal the Gag Rule? Do we really intend to save people's lives? It's time to take action.” Read: St. Paul Pioneer Press

Claims Against UNFPA "Unfounded," Religious Leaders Conclude

UNFPA Presence in China Reduces Coercion in Family Planning

Primitive ideas on women's health, family planning will hurt the Republican party

Investment in Adolescents' Reproductive Health Is Critical to Fighting Poverty and HIV/AIDS

The above summary was written by Elena Cabatu and Kathy Bonk at the Communications Consortium Media Center, 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005, 202/326-8700. Redistribution is encouraged with credit to CCMC.

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