Women in Afghanistan are suffering “catastrophic” maternal death rates, according to the most recent comprehensive surveys of the country’s state of health, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Management Sciences for Health, a non-profit based in Boston, in cooperation with the Afghan Health Ministry. Though the data is still being analyzed, medical experts believe that Afghanistan may now be experiencing the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, according to the New York Times. The current estimate is 1,700 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), second only to Sierra Leone. However, a new nationwide census is currently underway, for the first time on over 20 years.
Preliminary results from the surveys show that complications from pregnancy or childbirth were associated with about half of all deaths of women of reproductive age from 1998 to 2002. Lack of education, electricity, and access to clean water, sanitation, and medical care compound the situation for Afghanistan’s women. In addition, more than 85 percent of all Afghans live in villages, and only 30 percent of those residents have access to a radio, which is often the most effective means of transmitting information about public health services and practices in developing countries, according to the Times.
The vast majority of Afghan women give birth with no medical assistance and receive no prenatal care, both because of lingering effects from the Taliban’s control of the country as well as the sheer poverty of many women in the country, particularly those in rural villages, according to the Washington Post. Many foreign and Afghan health experts worry that with the recent focus of the United States on Iraq, Afghanistan will be forgotten as it was when the Soviet forces left the country in 1989, according to the Times. Recently, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah visited the United States to urge US officials to fulfill promises of humanitarian and reconstruction aid that would improve the overall situation for Afghanistan. Nations pledged $4.5 billion in aid to Afghanistan in January with $1.8 billion for this year alone – one-third of which has yet to be delivered. Abdullah noted that a significant portion of these pledges was made in the form of credit rather than grants. The United States government is still debating long-term financial commitments to Afghanistan. While the House approved $1.15 billion over four years, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a bill that would increase funding to $2 billion for humanitarian aid and $1 billion to expand international peacekeeping troops. The full Senate has yet to vote on this bill.
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.
The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.
Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .