Marie Smith, FFL representative at the UN, says, "Women's advocates must unite and direct our full attention to addressing the unmet needs of women—life-saving health care and nutrition, eliminating poverty through education and work opportunities, protecting women and children from violence and exploitation. Abortion is a sign that women's needs have not been met, and women deserve better."
"While Feminists for Life was gratified that the concluding document of the Summit was not compromised by the insertion of 'sexual or reproductive rights' (code for abortion), we believe caution must be taken with language that was adopted into the document. The inclusion, 'Ensuring equal access to reproductive health' is problematic. While 'reproductive health' has never been defined by the members of the United Nations to include abortion, proponents of abortion often use a broad definition of this term that includes abortion as a part of fertility regulation."
"Political word games do not serve women. Word games distract us and delay our efforts to help those in greatest need."
In an effort to clarify the intent of the term "reproductive health" in the document, some countries, including the United States, issued an "explanation of position" statement to the conclusion of the Outcome Document. The U.S. statement reads "….the use of the phrase "reproductive health" in paragraphs 57G and 58C do not create any rights and cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement or promotion of abortion."
It is the hope of FFL that the Millennium Development Goals will continue to focus on improving the lives of all the poor and especially the quality and dignity of women's lives throughout the world. Too many women live in extreme poverty, in dangerous and desolate environments, without adequate nutrition, clean water or sanitation, without access to health care. Too many women give birth in dangerous conditions, suffer abuse by husbands and others, are trafficked for sex, are dying from AIDS and other diseases. Too many women are denied access to education and economic opportunities, are left out of advancements in technology and development, have no right to vote for change.
Women's lives are at risk, and underlying problems must be solved. This work is too important to be compromised by the word games of governments and abortion advocates with hidden agendas to promote abortion.
Millennium Development Goals
Feminists for Life believes that the Millennium Development Goals are life-affirming targets that if achieved will greatly improve billions of lives around the globe. Women and children will be freed from lives of poverty, hunger, death, disease, and despair. We support the promotion of these goals and work to ensure that all members of society, including the unborn, benefit from their promotion and achievement. FFL's perspective on each of the Millennium Development Goals follows.
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Poverty affects more women than men and renders them vulnerable to disease and abuse. Many more women than men live in extreme poverty, often struggling to survive on less than $1 a day.
Like American women of our feminist foremothers' day well over a century ago, so many women in various nations today work long and hard hours in deplorable conditions. In many countries, women cannot own or inherit land or property. They cannot vote. They are denied custody of their children if they are divorced or in some cases if they are widowed. They are limited in education. Women are abused sexually, and the crimes often go unpunished. Women die in childbirth, and half their children die before age five.
What women want and need is full participation as citizens, equal access to resources and opportunities, and enforced legal protection against discrimination, violence and oppression. When women have obtained these rights, they will lift themselves from poverty. Governments must be concerned with the basic rights of women.
Efforts to alleviate poverty should not include eliminating children through abortion. Children are not the enemy. They are the future; in fact, children are each country's best hope for the future.
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Education is the most empowering choice for any woman's future. Fully two-thirds of the world's illiterate people are female, leaving these women with very few options to create decent lives for themselves.
The opportunity and ability to attend school is vital for girls. Education protects a girl by preparing her for productive adulthood, and by providing an alternative to the cultural practice of early marriage and motherhood.. Schooling also provides options other than the false promises of traffickers. No girl should be denied the benefits of school because of costs or because her culture values boys over girls.
Women who have had the benefit of education have more opportunities to escape poverty, receive greater respect, and provide community leadership. Their health is also better, which results in healthier pregnancies, safer deliveries, and healthier children. They help provide for the family's needs and ensure that women make informed decisions to improve the well-being of themselves and their children. They are able to provide nutritious diets and teach their children about hygiene and sanitation in disease prevention. Their children live longer, healthier lives.
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
All women, born or unborn, have inherent worth and human rights that cannot be conferred or denied by another. But in much of the world, women must fight oppression by those who hold more power in society and who seek to deny women their human rights. Tragically, some seek to empower women by oppressing another class of people, unborn children, and denying them their most basic human right—the right to life.
A number of cultural practices devalue girls' and women's lives and cause unimaginable suffering—from acid burnings and so-called honor killings to female genital mutilation to rapes of young girls in Africa in the false belief that it will cure the rapist's HIV/AIDS. In countries where there is a strong cultural preference for male children, like India and China, girls are targeted for death by sex-selective abortion or infanticide or abandonment after birth. It is the responsibility of governments to ensure that all citizens are protected from such violent practices.
Women and girls must be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Trafficking, for example, reduces women and children to commodities that are bought and sold; they are "have nots" used and abused by the "haves." Laws on domestic violence are needed to give all women legal recourse to escape violent situations without being further victimized by loss of child custody or property.
Changes in laws are needed to give women full equal economic and political rights. The right to own their home, to own land, to vote, to go to school, to start a business, to run for and be elected to political office are ways that women find equality.
Many women in developing countries—more than men—struggle as subsistence farmers. Women must have access to vocational and skill training and job opportunities to truly experience economic empowerment. Micro-credit loans are a remarkable means to provide a woman with the ability to earn a sustainable income to feed her family and meet basic needs. Even very small loans can transform women's lives.
Cultural changes are needed as well. We must develop a universal respect and support for women's life-giving capacity, upon which all societies depend. Women should not be expected to sacrifice themselves and their children—both born and unborn—because they lack the support they need and deserve.
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Eleven million children under the age of five die every year, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia. Four million of these children are newborns whose death is often preventable by prenatal care. Supporting mothers and children—through immunization, clean delivery conditions, timely treatment of infections, and adequate nutrition for nursing mothers—is key to saving newborns and infants. Similarly, addressing the unmet needs of women, especially those who are driven to abortion due to economic conditions, will significantly reduce the numbers of abortions worldwide.
The overwhelming majority of young children can be saved by simple treatments to prevent, diagnose, and treat the most common life-threatening maladies such as diarrhea, malnutrition, malaria, measles and pneumonia. Access to clean water and sanitation can save three million children every year. Basic nutrition can save more than 153 million children each year. Elimination of disease-spreading mosquitoes and the use of netting for sleeping children can save more than one million children, most of them under age five, each year.
Each year, more than 246 million children labor under inhumane conditions, often suffering chronic lung disease, bone deformations, injuries and life-threatening risks in mines, refuse heaps, dye vats and other dangerous environments. Another million children are trafficked within their country or across borders for forced labor or sexual abuse. The lives of growing numbers of girls and boys are destroyed by armies, insurgents, terrorist groups and gangs who kidnap and force them into brutal roles as child soldiers.
Every effort should be made to protect children from violence, exploitation, hunger and disease. Supporting mothers is essential to protecting children.
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Women are dying from lack of access to health care. Maternal mortality is avoidable, and life-threatening complications are treatable by a professional health worker. Pregnant women die because they do not have prenatal care, safe and sanitary delivery facilities, antibiotics, transfusions, assisted delivery and post-partum care.
Nutritious diets are also critical for pregnant women and nursing mothers. To maintain health for themselves as well as the child they are carrying or breast feeding, women may need supplements for deficiencies like anemia. Like all women in developing countries, mothers are desperate for prevention and treatment of killer diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
Maternal mortality rates will decrease when governments prioritize women's lives and act to save them.
Efforts in Africa must focus on prevention and treatment of fistula. This disabling disorder often results from an obstructed delivery but can also be caused by violent acts of abuse and rape. It leaves a young woman with such severe tissue damage that she is unable to control her body's discharges from bowel and bladder. If it is not repaired she lives an agonizing life. She may be shunned even by her family because of the offensive smell and complications. She may also suffer the loss of her child, often the only child she will ever have.
It is estimated that more than two million women live with fistula, which is preventable before it occurs and treatable by surgery afterwards. Traditional birth attendants need training in modern obstetric care, learning to spot possible birth complications before labor begins and seek help at hospitals. More fistula surgery centers are needed to restore women to life and health.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Health care for treatment and prevention of disease is urgently needed throughout the world. Malaria causes more than 300 million cases of acute illness a year and kills a million people. Two million deaths a year are attributed to tuberculosis. The HIV/AIDS pandemic takes the lives of 8,000 people daily. More women than men are now affected and more children are being orphaned due to the disease.
Women and children are often not priorities in receiving life-saving medication and treatment for disease as well as prevention for killer diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
Women are especially susceptible to some diseases like HIV/AIDS and because of their role as caregivers have an increased rate of exposure to disease. Further, their infection and death from disease drastically affects the lives of the many that depend on them. Since most health care and recovery takes place in the home, the lack of clean water and sanitation exacerbates the problem and negatively impacts health.
Women's lives and health must become a priority of governments.
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Women and children across the globe suffer most acutely from environmental degradation. Increasingly, women are leading local efforts to address these problems and promote environmental sustainability. With education and resources, more women can become vital parts of the solution.
Those who are most vulnerable in society—predominantly women and children—often lack clean water and sanitation, exposing them to sewage filth and water-borne diseases.
Millions of women and children, primarily in Africa and Asia, must walk more than three miles a day to get clean water. Land that has been stripped of trees means women and children must walk in search of firewood for cooking and household use. These long treks expose them to violence from rape and assault. If women were freed from these time-consuming daily tasks, they could pursue income-producing skills or education to improve their lives.
Three-quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture or related activities. More women than men struggle to farm hostile land, often stricken by drought. Women who flee these conditions for the cities often end up in slums lacking adequate housing. Raw sewage in cities is a growing environmental problem that negatively impacts the lives of women and children.
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Women's lives are at risk, and underlying problems must be solved by working in partnership with the women whose lives we hope to help to determine appropriate solutions that address their needs within a viable context.
Developed countries have a special responsibility to support developing countries in achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals. In each case, this must include addressing the fundamental needs of women, particularly women who are poor, pregnant and/or parenting.
Development and new technologies are key to lifting lives from poverty. Electricity, clean water, sewage systems, paved roads, telephones and the internet are advancements that have yet to reach millions of lives. One in every six people in the world do not even have clean water and sanitation or access to electricity, negatively impacting the lives and health of women and children.
Research has shown consistently that the education, health and safety of women are essential to the well-being of families as well as the larger society. Meeting the real needs of women is not just a moral imperative—it is key to creating a better world for all. This work is too important to be compromised by the word games of governments and abortion advocates with hidden agendas to promote abortion.
E-mail this page to a friend