On October 30th I attended UNFPA’s State of the World Population 2013 Launch: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy. The focus of this event was on empowering girls and giving girls agency, especially in reproductive health. The particular topic was adolescent pregnancy, and 90% of adolescent pregnancies occur within marriage. I was surprised by this, since adolescent pregnancy in the US is a phenomenon that mostly occurs out of wedlock. In the presentation, they talked about the status of women and the large gender inequality that exists that is the cause for adolescent pregnancy. Adolescent pregnancy is a problem because for girls it generally means the end of education, they are more likely to be impoverished, and includes new health concerns. “About 70,000 adolescents in developing countries die annually of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth” according the World Population Report.
Like I have stated, 90% of adolescent pregnancies occur in marriage. This means that most girls who get married in their adolescent years have no say in whether they want to get married, who they are to marry, and what future goals and dreams they have for themselves. It is evident the injustice that exists within the structure of child marriage. However, while this seems evident, I did notice a slight paradox. At the UNFPA’s presentation, the emphasis was on the necessity for access to reproductive services. They claimed that these services are the means for a girl’s autonomy, but push aside the actually problem of child marriage! They say they want a women to have agency over when she has children, but the root cause of adolescent pregnancy is not access to services. Regardless of the opinions on contraception, it is clear that having access to contraception and even abortion does not eliminate the problem, it only masks the symptoms! The true autonomy of the person begins with their freedom. In a child marriage, the consent of the woman does not matter. Early marriage for many girls becomes a sort of slavery.
If early marriage is the real problem, and adolescent pregnancy is only a consequence of this; why isn’t the UNFPA’s main priority on eliminating child marriage? In Kenya, by promoting education through programs that make education more affordable, such as donating uniforms or cash incentives, the pregnancy rate dropped by 17%[i]! This statistic is also correlated to age at marriage. The study says “education continues to be the single most important predictor of age at marriage over time.[ii]” I think it is clear that if we really care about these issues, we will go to the root of them in order to eliminate injustice, rather than just treat a symptom.
[i] p. 58 UNFPA State of the World Population 2013 “Motherhood in Childhood:Facing the Challenges of Adolescent Pregnancy.”
[ii] p. 60 UNFPA State of the World Population 2013 “Motherhood in Childhood:Facing the Challenges of Adolescent Pregnancy.”
Recent polls have found that the pro-choice narrative of the “War on Women” being fought by pro-life legislators by restricting abortion to twenty weeks may be flawed. A poll done jointly by The Washington Post and ABC News found that 56% of American adults favored restrictions on abortion at 20 weeks, twice the number that restrictions at 24 weeks.
Another poll, done by Quinnipiac University, found similar results. 55% of all surveyed and 60% of women were found to support a 20-week ban on abortion. When the total surveyed was divided up by political affiliation, gender, and ethnicity, every group except registered Democrats had a majority supporting a 20-week ban. Even among Democrats, a plurality supported the 20-week ban, with 46% polled in support compared to 44% who support a 24-week ban.
Both polls also found that women were actually more supportive of the 20-week ban, with 60% in support. Only 24% supported the 24-week ban. 8% of both women and the general population were found to support a ban on all abortion, while 1% believed it should always be legal.
The issue of the 20-week ban has appeared in the national spotlight as state legislatures make strides to pass bans on abortion after 20-weeks. Although the limit on abortion set by the Supreme Court is 24 weeks, these legislatures have argued that abortion should be banned another month earlier, based on factors such as the presence of a heartbeat and viability.
The most contentious of these bans was in Texas, where state senator Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for 11 hours. Davis accused the advocates of the ban of going against the wishes of the women of Texas.
These polling numbers show that the truth of American opinions on abortion runs counter to the argument made by liberal media outlets and Wendy Davis. Americans support 20-week bans with large majorities, and women support them at greater rates. If Wendy Davis really wanted to “stand with Texas women” she’d be supporting the 20-week abortion ban.
Considering that so far $542 million dollars from taxpayers nation wide have been paid towards planned parenthood, this investigation would allow officials to see a clearer view on how these funds are spent by planned Parenthood.
Furthermore, Planned Parenthood performed over 333,964 abortions last year alone, and an estimated 1 million abortions over the past three years.
Moreover, Rep. Pete Olsen, a Republican from Texas noted
“Federal tax dollars are legally prohibited from being used for abortions. Under the U.S. constitution, the Obama Administration has a duty to enforce these laws. And under that same constitution, Congress has a duty to ensure that the executive branch follows the law of the land. I look forward to seeing the report and following up on behalf of all American taxpayers.”
“Despite the best and slickest market branding money can buy, the stubborn fact remains that Planned Parenthood clinics are among the most dangerous places on Earth for a child. It is deeply troubling that despite the fact that Planned Parenthood claims direct responsibility for killing over 6 million unborn babies, including a record 333,964 abortions in 2011 alone, they still receive taxpayer money—since Obama’s election, U.S. subsidies to the abortion industry at home and abroad, have significantly increased,”
In conclusion, more than 50 members of Congress are among those requesting a report on how taxpayer funding is specifically used by Planned Parenthood for abortion procedures.
Forcible sterilization is not gone. According to a new report from the Center for Investigative Reporting, from 2006 to 2010, nearly 150 women in the California Institution for Women and the Valley State Prison for Women were illegally sterilized.
Female inmates report that they were coerced into receiving tubal ligations. Christina Cordero, 34, claimed that “as soon as [Dr. James Heinrich] found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting [a tubal ligation]…. He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it… Today, I wish I would have never had it done.” Another inmate accused Dr. Heinrich of insisting upon the procedure while she was “strapped down and sedated in preparation for a C-section.”
This is not an isolated case. According to an essay in the Harvard Human Rights Journal, due to the premise that economic growth and population are inversely related, forcible sterilization remains a common practice in many nations as a means to combat poverty, India and China being among the worst perpetrators.
In 2012, India conducted a large-scale forcible sterilization program, funded for by the British government. The UK Guardian reported that clinics received up to 1,500 rupees per sterilization, with an additional 500 rupees per patient if they sterilized more than 30 patients a day.
With such a powerful monetary benefit, medical practitioners were incentivized to carry out operations expediently. One surgeon conducted 53 operations in 2 hours, leaving “three bleeding profusely and led one who was three months pregnant miscarrying.”
China also promotes large-scale sterilization programs. According to the Washington Times, the Chinese Communist Party has performed 196 million sterilizations. These programs started as a method of enforcing the 1 child policy; however, they have escalated.
Pressure to meet strict population targets has resulted in widespread official corruption. In one case, “Family Planning Officials literally dragged [a woman] out of her home kicking and screaming, held her down to a table and cut her open with no anesthesia” according to Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.
Forcible sterilization reflects the devaluation and objectification of humanity. However, the international system has a long, uncomfortable history of these programs. They prevail despite persistent opposition and emphatic public outrage.
This suggests that the root of exclusion and dehumanization is deeply engrained within the constructs of humanity- always vulnerable to exposure and manipulation within the hands of the wrong people.
We may convince ourselves that dehumanization is extinct; however, it is simply well hidden. It lingers within the concaves of social institutions that call for the systematic devaluation of life.