The New York Times‘ Nick Kristof tells a tragic Mother’s Day story in his new column noting what happened to a pregnant 30-year-old Somali woman named Hinda Hassan.
Hassan has never had access to family planning, and already had eight children when she became pregnant again. When she went into labor, untrained birth attendants, lacking access to supplies and equipment, were unprepared when there were complications with the delivery. Hassan was ultimately transported — by truck, on bone-rattling roads — to a hospital where she died.
Kristof called her death “infuriatingly unnecessary,” and noted all of the many ways Hassan’s life could have been saved, including access to the basics of family planning.
By United Nations estimates, 215 million women worldwide have an “unmet need” for family planning, meaning they don’t want to become pregnant but are not using effective contraception. The Guttmacher Institute, a widely respected research organization, estimates that if all the unmet need for contraception were met, the result would be 94,000 fewer women dying of pregnancy complications each year, and almost 25 million fewer abortions each year.
Greater access to birth control would also help check the world population, which the United Nations warned a few days ago is rising more quickly than expected. The U.N. now projects the total population in 2100 will be 10.1 billion.
Yet this year, Republicans in Congress have been trying to slash investments in family planning. A budget compromise last month cut international family planning spending by 5 percent, but some Republicans are expected to seek much bigger cuts in future years.
If they succeed, the consequences will be felt in places like this remote Somali town. Women won’t get access to contraceptives, and the parade of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, fistulas, and mothers dying in childbirth will continue.
Ah, but there was one Republican-sponsored initiative for family planning in Congress this year. It provided contraception without conditions — for wild horses in the American West. It passed on a voice vote.
Horses deserve access to family planning services. Struggling women around the world do not.
The Republican Party and its allies on the right continue to characterize themselves as “pro-life” and champions of “family values.” The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.