It’s Vagina News Link Madness!

Holy cow, there’s a lot going on. Time to play catch-up. Ready? Let’s go:

  • I just finished a free online class in International Women’s Health and Human Rights through Stanford (they’re going to offer it again, and I HIGHLY recommend it – get on the list here). I learned a lot about the history of these issues in the UN, and specifically about the Millennium Development Goals. Last week, the 2014 Commission on the Status of Women ended “with an agreement that called for the acceleration of progress towards achieving the millennium development goals, and confirming the need for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the set of international targets that will be introduced once they expire in 2015. The agreement also said gender equality must underpin all other goals.” The details are interesting and encouraging, and very much worth a read.
  • Last week also saw the Hobby Lobby case argued before the Supreme Court. The craziest part of the case, IMHO, is the fact that the entire argument is based on an objection to ACA coverage of IUDs and the morning-after pill, based on the belief that they cause abortion – which they absolutely, undeniably DON’T. (They prevent conception. Hence the word “contra-ception”. Spermy no meet eggy.) Yet this case has risen all the way to the Supreme Court because the owners of Hobby Lobby (and another company) BELIEVE they cause abortion, and that would violate their religious beliefs (never mind that a corporation can’t believe anything.) Anyway, I bring it up to introduce this great piece on our three female Supreme Court Justices, which pounds home the importance of gender parity in all levels of government.
  •  Buzzfeed isn’t just lists of .gifs… They’ve done some important reporting on campus sexual assault; specifically, legal violations serious enough to prompt the federal investigation of a school less than a mile from where I’m sitting right now.
  • Jimmy Carter has a new book out, ‘A Call to Action’, and in it, he blames selective application of religious dogma for the unconscionable treatment of women and girls around the world. “The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls… This claim that women are inferior before God spreads to the secular world to justify gross and sustained acts of discrimination and violence against them… This is not just a women’s issue. It is not confined to the poorest countries. It affects us all.”
  • And finally, a great article from the Money section of The New York Times about how gender discrimination affects women’s salary negotiations in the workplace. Like most contemporary manifestations of sexism, it’s not overt; rather it’s a combination of learned behavior and double standards that make everyone complicit. The article is a solid step toward becoming aware of how we may be participating unknowingly, and how to stop.

The Shocking Reality of Maternal Mortality (with apologies for the rhyme.)

This week in class, we’re covering reproductive health & early marriage & pregnancy.

Vagina News generally focuses on the US, because frankly the idea of staying on top of things globally is overwhelming. But I’m glad this class is global in focus, because it’s teaching me some really important perspective.

Here are a few incredible facts about maternal health around the world:

  • In developing countries, conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth are the second highest cause of death (after HIV/AIDS) among women of reproductive age.
  • About 16 million girls aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year, accounting for more than 10% of all births. In low- and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls 15-19.
  • Of the 800 women who die of such causes every day, 440 live in sub-Saharan Africa, 230 in Southern Asia and five in high-income countries.
  • About 21 million unsafe abortions are carried out, mostly in developing countries every year, resulting in 47 000 maternal deaths.
  • The vast majority of these deaths are preventable, through access to contraception and reproductive health care. The main obstacle to progress towards better health for mothers is the lack of skilled care. This is aggravated by a global shortage of qualified health workers.

On the upside, improving maternal health is one of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the international community in 2000. Under MDG5, countries committed to reducing maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. Since 1990, maternal deaths worldwide have dropped by 47%.

In sub-Saharan Africa, a number of countries have halved their levels of maternal mortality since 1990. In other regions, including Asia and North Africa, even greater headway has been made. However, between 1990 and 2010, the global maternal mortality ratio (i.e. the number of maternal deaths per 100 000 live births) declined by only 3.1% per year. This is far from the annual decline of 5.5% required to achieve MDG5.