McCain Would Undermind Development By Restricting Women's Access To Reproductive Health Programs

Woe to the women of the world under a McCain administration.

The Millennium Development Goals are the United Nations' blueprint for cutting poverty and hunger, for spreading education and health, and for sustaining the environment. Achievement of these goals will require heroic efforts by the target countries and regions and sustained smart development aid by the world's wealthier countries.

With our present financial crisis, with our 9 trillion dollar deficit rising at least by another trillion, the American people may be reluctant to increase ODA (overseas development assistance) or even to keep it at present levels. This will present a challenge to the next President to educate the American people about our true role in the world. The world still looks up to Americans. The bereft of the earth, mostly women, see us as a beacon of hope. I fear what McCain means by Country First.

The problems for me with McCain come with Goals 4, 5, and 6. They all have to do with reproductive health and all that RH connotes. Goal 4 aims to cut child mortality by two thirds. Of the 9.2 million children under 5 who die every year, 40 percent die in their first month. Why? Because their mothers were unhealthy, malnourished, had just given birth perhaps 13 months before and had no access to family planning. I call family planning the FP word, a dirty word for religious fanatics of many stripes. Misogyny disguised as love.

Family planning saves women's and children's lives. John, when the world takes care of women, women take care of the world. The Bush Administration plays all kinds of games with women's access to reproductive health and family planning. You haven't shown me that you would be any better.

Goal 5 is Improve Maternal Health. Goal 5 aims to reduce by three fourths the deaths of women in childbirth, presently more than 500,000 per year. Prenatal care, a skilled attendant at the birth, and emergency obstetric care if needed are the 3 keys. The world has broken many promises in this regard.

Part 2 of Goal 3 is to offer universal access to reproductive health including family planning. Here are some astounding facts. From 6.7 billion people now, we are headed toward 9 or 9.2 billion by 2050 with 98 percent of the growth in the countries least able to cope. There are 78 million more births than deaths every year. There are 210 million pregnancies in the world every year, 20 percent of which end in abortion i.e. 42 million. About 40 percent are safe and legal, 60 percent with knives in the belly and ingestion of detergent or rat poison.

John McCain, did you know that? Do you care? Or are you going to play the same games of gag rules, "conscience clauses" and big bucks for "abstinence only" which have cost women their very lives? Are you concerned about 9 billion people on the planet and what effect this will have on people, the planet, security, and peace?

I have no confidence in you. I sent you my book "34 Million Friends of the Women of the World." It recounts what a wonderful PRO-LIFE role the United Nations Population Fund plays in saving women's lives and adding quality to the lives of women and girls. The book recounts our very idealistic grassroots movement asking 34 million Americans for one dollar for UNFPA as a ( I quote Molly Ivins) "splendid symbolic protest." (Readers, please see We are still going strong after 6 years.) You actually wrote me back. You thanked me for the book and then unfortunately you went on and on about abortion which had nothing to do with my book. Your mind was ideologically closed. Your letter showed no understanding whatsoever of the role of UNFPA and the importance of true reproductive health. Shame on you!

Goal 6 is Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Tens of billions have gone into the fight against AIDS. Bush's PEPFAR program has been much touted. But under the Bush Administration, AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment, for reasons of political correctness for the religious right, have been separated from reproductive health. Isn't AIDS a sexually transmitted disease? Why should a couple, a woman in particular, have to access prenatal care, birthing, and family planning in one place, and AIDS prevention information, testing, treatment, and avoidance of mother to child transmission in another? And yet that is exactly what is happening. This makes no scientific or public health sense. It is medical malpractice and yet with the influence of Bush blood money, this is what is happening. What a tragedy! What a travesty! And this for the poorest, most illiterate, most vulnerable women in the world! John, would you change this. Would you put AIDS back in with reproductive health? And to the UN, would you please tell me what AIDS has to do with malaria? Except maybe you can contract AIDS and not malaria under a bed net.

So there you have it. From all indications Senator John McCain as President would continue the anti-women, "pro-death", policies of the Bush Administration. Barbara Crossette in a recent "Listen to the Women" article in THE NATION thinks McCain-Palin would be much worse than Bush.

Goals 1,2,3,7, and 8 are not controversial. I think Obama and McCain would both be fully supportive. Look them up at I'm sure that Barack Obama's relations with the UN would be based on respect and cooperation, but that he would always do what he feels is best for America in the most profound sense of the term. He would support all of the MDGs unreservedly. I will be very deeply hurt if Americans don't do the right thing on November 4. The economy may elect Obama, but with his election, the women of the world will be in good hands.

This week OffTheBus is publishing a variety of stories that cover the policy differences between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. If you have a policy expertise and would like to participate, please see Calling All Policy Gurus.