Good news came from the medical community recently when the journal Lancetannounced that fewer women are dying from pregnancy and childbirth. But this is bad news for reproductive rights groups gathered in Washington this week for Women Deliver, a major conference on maternal mortality. Their multiyear, high-pressure campaign, backed by the United Nations and packaged in a global gathering on maternal and child health, had banked on squeezing $30 billion more from countries - mainly the United States - to promote government-funded abortion as an international human right and a staple of national health care programs.
Nearly one-quarter of the 110 sessions deal with abortion, family planning or "reproductive rights." A dozen more focus on ways to overcome "obstacles" to abortion rights, specifically religion and national laws. This is decidedly lopsided, considering that most maternal deaths result from hemorrhaging and sepsis.
What is troubling about these abortion activists cloaked as maternal health advocates is that they divert resources from medical interventions proven to reduce maternal mortality to their already bloated family-planning industry. And, we discovered recently, they intentionally seek to hide research that counters their goals. Think of it as Climategate meets Abortiongate.
The organizers of Women Deliver invented the U.N.'s Safe Motherhood Initiative two decades ago. Hitching the abortion wagon to maternal health was a desperate attempt to regain for the international family-planning industry the kind of clout - and massive funding - it enjoyed before population control was personified by China's forced-abortion program.
There is one potentially fatal flaw with the population-control makeover: There is no verifiable data to back the claim that abortion improves maternal and child health. That problem became a huge deal recently when a group of researchers published a rigorous study refuting the U.N.-backed figure of 500,000 annual maternal deaths. Abortion activists and some U.N. staff use the inflated number to claim that about 13 percent of those deaths are attributable to "unsafe" - which they define as illegal - abortion.
Their logic is simple: Increase family planning to reduce pregnancies and make abortion legal. However, women will continue to get pregnant, and the medical community knows what works to reduce maternal mortality. Better overall health care and skilled birth attendants along with economic progress and education for women are the real drivers of better maternal health. Abortion - especially in areas without basic medical care - is dangerous whether legal or illegal.
With the best methods possible, the Lancet study shows that maternal deaths have declined since 1980 from more than a half-million annually to 342,900. That's without abortion being declared an international right and without $30 billion additional funding for family-planning groups.
Abortion activists have been storming Capitol Hill, citing the discredited figures and reciting the mantra that abortion rights will lower global maternal deaths. At one briefing, speakers demanded U.S. funding of international abortions because "public funding of abortion is a human right."
Make no mistake; the stakes are high. A previous Women Deliver conference set audacious goals. Thanks to liberal governments on both sides of the Atlantic, they are being achieved.
They gained legitimacy when UNICEF and the U.N. Population Fund surreptitiously inserted "reproductive health" into the U.N. Millennium Development Goals without seeking permission from U.N. member states. U.N. committees, like the one for the infamous women's treaty CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) collaborate to create out of thin air a new human right to maternal health and hold pro-life countries in violation of treaty obligations.
The Obama administration has diverted billions of dollars from major public health risks, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and funneled them to the reproductive health industry.
With the Obama administration badgering Group of Eight countries to get in line, this month's summit likely will include abortion as a mandatory part of maternal health, a signature issue for that conference.
So this week's Women Deliver conference is a high-stakes gamble.
Last week, at a smaller gathering, the editor of Lancet talked about how he was pressured to wait until after this year's global funding conferences to go public with the new study. Ann Starrs, the head of Women Deliver, admitted that she told the authors and publisher that they should be "locked in a black box" or "at least hide that there is disagreement" with the U.N.-approved but now discredited figures on maternal deaths.
Thousands of midlevel medical providers from Asia, Africa and Latin America have been flown in to Washington, courtesy of Women Deliver's corporate backers. They are the backdrop, pawns for conference organizers to announce a global "consensus" for government funding of abortion to reduce maternal mortality. But organizers now fear that if a confrontation between researchers and activists breaks out, as it did at the gathering last week, it could pull the thread that unravels the entire premise of their campaign.
Wendy Wright is president of Concerned Women for America. Susan Yoshihara is vice president for research at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.
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