Every day, approximately 800 women die from childbirth. Approximately 440 of them will live in sub-Saharan Africa, and 230 will live in Southern Asia according to who.int. It is estimated by WHO (World Health Organization) that if women could choose how many children they could have, the birth rate would drop by approximately 70%. Obtaining birth control continues to be a struggle for women in many foreign countries, and the fight for reproductive health care rights continues.
Starting in 1983, Peru was able to provide its people with family planning services, which was followed by the National Population Policy in 1985 during the presidency of Alberto Fujimori. To control the indigenous population, more than 300,000 women 20,000 men were sterilized without consent according to telesurtv.net. These procedures were carried out using food as incentive, or lack of as punishment, without warning the victims of the procedure. Fujimori was imprisoned in 2007 for his corruption and humans rights abuses, but the effects of those who were sterilized can never be reversed.
In parts of the world where child marriage still occurs, it is exceedingly difficult for young mothers to give birth. Many girls have pelvises that are too small to naturally accommodate the heads of the babies, which results in an obstructed labor. Fistulas develop commonly when an obstructed labor is left for long enough that the pelvic tissue rots away, leaving the woman unable to control her bodily fluids, and in extreme cases, unable to walk. Fistulas used to be common in the United States, there even used to be a hospital in Manhattan, according to Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, authors of Half the Sky. Obstetrician L. Lewis Wall, estimates that 30,000 to 130,000 women will develop a fistula every year in Africa alone. It is estimated that 90% of fistulas are treatable, however it is difficult to prevent them in young girls due to their smaller pelvis.
For over 16 years, El Salvador has criminalized abortion in all circumstances, including in cases of rape, incest, or is dangerous to the mother’s health according to reproductiverights.org.
“No woman should ever be thrown behind bars after suffering from pregnancy complications and this Salvadoran Court decision ensures facts and medical evidence prevail over discriminatory stereotypes about women and pregnancy,” says Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center.
Women who are accused of inducing an abortion are often charged with homicide and can receive up to 40 years in prison, such as in the case of Maria Theresa, the pseudonym of a young person who miscarried in a public restroom. She was wrongfully convicted of aggravated homicide and was sentenced to 40 years in prison, had it not been overturned, she would have remained in prison until 2052.
Due to the past election, many individuals, especially those working in the field of women’s health are skeptical about possible upcoming changes. Shauna Stephen PA-C works in an OB GYN office and specializes in the prevention of teen pregnancy.
“I believe that we are finally putting females first,” says Stephen. “In the state of Colorado you don’t need a referral to have an OB GYN, which is huge because you used to have to get a referral from your physician.”
Stephen cites a decrease in difficulties in childbirth as one of the successes that our nation has had in the past few years, even though we are not the highest. Stephen believes that access to different long term birth control should be increased. She believes that everyone should be able to have access to birth control, no matter where they go for medical assistance because she believes that planned pregnancies lead to more successful ones.
“Some schools don’t provide good sex ed, which is really scary,” said Stephen “what you find is that many students taking higher level classes don’t have time to take health, and because it isn’t required, they don’t get the information that they need.”
Due to the previous presidential election, many changes are being anticipated in the healthcare field, especially in the region of women’s health. Stephen believes that there are going to have changes, including possible restrictions to certain forms with birth control.
“I find that unless you are being aggressive with your own healthcare, you are not being heard,” says Stephens.
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