Magazine article World Watch

Jeopardizing a Blueprint for Reproductive Health

Magazine article World Watch

Jeopardizing a Blueprint for Reproductive Health

Article excerpt

At a regional population conference held in Bangkok last December, the United States cast a lone vote against language in a key United Nations document--the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.

The Cairo Program of Action was a watershed document because it recognized that the well-being of people, not controlling births, lies at the heart of population stabilization. One hundred and seventy-nine countries, including the United States, agreed at Cairo to improve reproductive health and ensure women's ability to control their own fertility.

Yet, in Bangkok, delegates of the Bush administration hampered progress by objecting vociferously to the terms "reproductive health services" and "reproductive rights." Why? The administration is opposed to 1) young people having access to condoms, and 2) women having access to abortion services and counseling.

Safe and legal abortions carry few risks, but nearly half of all abortions are performed in unsafe conditions. As a result, 78,000 women die each year, while millions more suffer illness or permanent injury. At least a quarter of all unsafe abortions are performed on 15- to 19-year-old girls. Meanwhile, half of all new HIV infections occur among young people aged 15-24. Unprotected sex is driving up the incidence of HIV in adolescents and young adults.

Given these statistics, the administration's position on Cairo is a dangerous absurdity. …

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