Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose…

There's a fascinating piece on Radio Free Europe this week about how the number of pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths continues to climb worldwide. Kind of staggering, especially when you consider how easily preventable the vast majority of these deaths are. What's also staggering to contemplate is that the number of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth-around half a million women every year-hasn't changed in years. What's going on with the world's priorities? Are we really comfortable with that statistic? The Bush administration may be more than willing to take the credit for liberating women in Afghanistan, but who will take credit for the fact that today, 1 in 6 Afghani women is destined to die in childbirth (compared to 1 in 2,500 in the States, and one in 29,000 in Sweden)?

Preventing these deaths doesn't require fancy technology, and it doesn't require tons of money: what it does require is that the world put a higher premium on women's lives-which apparently is easier said than done.

For example, we could easily save the 68,000 women who die as a result of unsafe abortion every year (13% of total pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths worldwide) by lifting restrictive abortion laws, or just making abortion safe under the circumstances where it already is legal (like the Cairo Programme of Action, signed by 179 countries, suggests). Or, if we don't want to say the "A" word, we could always just throw our support behind agencies like UNFPA, provider of much-needed emergency obstetric care to women in 140 countries worldwide (yes, the same UNFPA that President Bush refuses to fund).

Or, if you're like Portugal (where abortion is illegal) and aren't inclined to worry too much about these issues, you could continue to throw doctors in jail instead. Nice job stopping Zidane's penalty, guys!

Learn more from the Safe Motherhood Initiative.

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