“Ramatou Issoufou is lucky to be alive,” said Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. I recently witnessed the 37-year-old Nigerian woman and her baby son survive a treacherous childbirth, after Issoufou nearly slipped into a coma from eclampsia, a complication of pregnancy that kills 50,000 women a year in the developing world. The maternity hospital where the birth took place was filthy, bug-ridden, and poorly equipped, and her husband had to pay $42 for an emergency surgical kit supplied by the U.N. Population Fund. Thanks to that effort, “two more lives” were saved. But last month, President Bush cut off U.S. contributions to the fund, due to pressure from Christian conservatives. They don’t like the U.N. agency because it promotes contraception. They also object to the fact that the Population Fund operates in China, which has an appalling policy of forced sterilizations and abortions. But the Population Fund has been pressuring China to end the coercion, and besides, “the solution isn’t to let African women die.”
Every year, more than 500,000 women die worldwide during pregnancy and childbirth. Through both contraception and medical supplies, the Population Fund is making a dent in that appalling statistic, but each day, hundreds of women perish because it can’t do more. “Call me naive, but I think if Mr. Bush came here and saw women dying as a consequence of his confused policy, he would relent.” Surely, letting women die isn’t what America stands for.
The New York Times
The Week, November 4, 2005