Act of Mercy
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Tue Feb 07, 2006 at 02:52:15 AM EST
Duna, Ethiopia -- Yemmi Samta didn't know that her 14-year-old-daughter, Saron, was pregnant until she found her unconscious and bleeding profusely on the dirt floor of her ramshackle house.

Samta begged a neighbor to load Saron onto a donkey cart and take her to the nearest clinic, 12 miles away. But the girl died on the way from septicemia, a form of blood poisoning, and loss of blood caused by an illegal abortion.

"I held her and pleaded to God not to take her," Samta recalled. "God took her to his arms, and I saw the life go from her body."

Saron's death represents a staggering reality about women and mortality in Africa. African women have a 1 in 16 chance of dying while pregnant, according to a report released last month by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF.

And for the last five years, George W. Bush and his most reliable political backers - the powerhouse organizations of the Religious Right - have ensured that it stayed that way.  

On his first working day in the Oval Office, President Bush resurrected Ronald Reagan's "global gag rule" -  the notorious policy that forbids any group or organization that receives overseas aid from the United States "to perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning" -- and thereby condemned tens of thousands of women and girls across the developing world to mutilation and death.

Over two years ago, Nadene Ghouri of the BBC told of the price already being paid in blood by the women of Ethiopia in order to perpetuate Mr. Bush's Culture of Life.

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I travelled to Ethiopia - a country where abortion is illegal but where a recent study at Addis Ababa hospital found half of all female deaths there were caused by botched back-street abortions. Here the cost of silence can be high.

One of the most upsetting moments was standing outside a one-room tin hut where Asmara, a prostitute, had bled to death just hours earlier.

Aged 22, she received condoms from the local Marie Stopes clinic. It closed when the US cut its cash after it failed to sign. She got pregnant and died.

"She had no money to go to hospital, so became too weak to move, then she died," her friend told me.

On the other side of Addis Ababa is Molu, living with nine children in one room. She has been told one more baby will kill her.

But the clinic that gives her the pill for free is shutting. There is no other clinic.

Molu says if she gets pregnant again, she will carry out her own abortion with wire.

"Either way I will die," she says with chilling fatality.

In Ethiopia, at least 55 percent of all maternal deaths are a result of unsafe, illegal abortions, the second biggest killer of women of child-bearing age after AIDS. In Uganda, a country with a rate of 880 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, more than one in five maternal deaths are due to abortion-related complications.  

And I have already written of the horrific situation in Kenya, a country gripped by a veritable epidemic of illegal abortion.

The women here lead desperate lives, says Dr. Joseph Ruminjo, an obstetrician who worked in the gynecology ward in a Nairobi hospital. He remembers one woman in her early 20s who aborted four fetuses over a couple of years by sticking a sharp object into her womb.

"I saw her four times in a very short while. She was very lucky she didn't die. They get an infection, it spreads into the bloodstream. They die.

"She didn't want to become pregnant, she just didn't know how to prevent it."

But according to Wendy Wright, the brand-new new president of Beverly LaHaye's Concerned Women for America, that's more than OK.

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Abortion advocates refuse to accept the reality that the United States, the U.N.'s largest donor, has a pro-life administration. In addition, the pro-abortion lobby is furious that the president has stopped American tax funding of abortion in other countries. (Abortion advocates deliberately mislabel President Bush's executive order against funding international abortion as "the gag rule.")

As a result, abortion advocates are using every means possible to isolate the U.S. Often, the U.S. does stand boldly alone in favor of life.

Joseph d'Agostino of the Population Research Institute -- a Virginia-based "educational" group with a thinly-disguised religious agenda - states the objective in clear terms: "We don't expect to see the United Nations change, or Western Europe change. But with the Bush administration, pro-lifers feel there's a real opportunity to stop the U.S. government from promoting abortion and sex education and population control in the Third World."

As Wendy Wright explains, "It's not that I know what is right for other women," she says. "It's that I know what is right."

Another one of the things CWA "knows" is right is that a fetus is a person just like you and me, and "an unborn child should be legally protected from the point of conception."

This "unborn child" might not be worth even one woman's life, because its own mother is a rat.  

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But the fact that this "unborn child" has human DNA is worth the lives of 70,000 women a year.  

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Sure Wendy, that ought to sound "right" to just about anybody.  As Martin Luther famously remarked, "If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth - that is why they are there."

While the indescribable suffering of women in developing countries has left our president and his religious "right" supporters unmoved, God be thanked that not all governments are so impervious to human pain.  

Britain defies US with funding to boost safe abortion services

The British government will today publicly defy the United States by giving money for safe abortion services in developing countries to organisations that have been cut off from American funding.

Nearly 70,000 women and girls died last year because they went to back-street abortionists. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered serious injuries.

Critics of America's aid policy say some might have lived if the US had not withdrawn funding from clinics that provide safe services - or that simply tell women where to find them.
The UK will today become the founder donor of a fund set up specifically to attempt to replace the lost dollars and increase safe abortion services.

With initial funding of £3m, the fund hopes for contributions from other countries with less medieval notions of the worth of women's lives. This act of mercy by the British government will be overseen by its Department for International Development. Britain's DFID asked the International Planned Parenthood Federation to compile a report on the scale of the damage done by unsafe abortion not only to women themselves, but on an economic and societal level as well. IPPF's report, entitled Death and Denial: Unsafe Abortion and Poverty, tells us that once again this year, an estimated 19 million women and girls will undergo unsafe abortions, and that yet another 70,000 can be expected to die unless urgently needed health care services become available to them.  

We can only thank God that the British are coming. And millions of at-risk women in the developing world can only hope that they arrive in time.

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But it isn't a war against abortion. It's a war against women. Couching entrenched misogyny in terms of 'saving babies' does nothing to save the women who would care for these babies.

Studies have shown that when women are given control over their reproductive systems, and are allowed to choose the size of their families and the spacing of their children, the entire family prospers, because such women tend to have smaller families. When families prosper, communities prosper. When communities prosper, so does the whole country.

But as long as the politico-religious war against women is being waged, we all lose. It might not be apparent yet in our 'developed' country, but when women lose the right to self-determination, the whole country will lose.

Thank goodness the Brits have the moxie to defy the US. I am very glad that someone is doing this.

by Lorie Johnson on Tue Feb 07, 2006 at 10:14:26 AM EST

It's war against all non-Christians - by THEIR definitions!  It's a war for control.  The poor and the ignorant are easier to control.  Women are most vulnerable where they're attacking, and they're doing it in such as way as too keep them poor, tho apparantly dead is okay too. It will also keep families poor.  They aer also attacking all other education and science, remember. 


They want conrol of everything, period, so Jesus will come back.  As far as I'm concerned it's a form of insanity, not religion.  Even with religious freedom we don't permit human sacrifice - there must be a line, and these people start OUT having crossed it.  Dominionism needs to be illegal: it's insane; it's destructive in every way in which it can be described.



by Ian MacLeod on Fri Sep 01, 2006 at 09:21:39 PM EST

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