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New Ms. Cover Story Reveals Global Gag Rule's Devastating

Toll on Women in Developing World

On January 22 we commemorate the 35 th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that put an end to dangerous back-alley abortions in this country. But in the developing world, U.S. policies are a major contributor to unsafe abortions that still claim women's lives-70,000 each year worldwide, more than half in Africa alone.

In the new issue of Ms. , out this month, we go to the notorious Ward 1D of Nairobi 's Kenyatta National Hospital to see the grim situation firsthand. Ms. asks what our government won't: How many of these deaths are due to U.S. policies?

Those policies include a draconian global gag rule, which prevents U.S.-funded clinics in developing nations from even mentioning abortion, under threat of losing that much-needed funding. The gag rule hasn't just caused clinics to close, but has also led to a precipitous pullback in U.S. delivery of contraceptives to developing nations.

In Kenya , five significant family-planning clinics have closed for loss of funds-which increases the potential for unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions. That may be part of the reason why public hospitals in Kenya , including Kenyatta National, treat about 20,000 women each year for abortion-related complications. As much as 40 percent of all maternal deaths in Kenya result from those complications.

As part of the cover package, Ms. also points out the family-planning roadblocks thrown up by the Bush administration in the U.S. , including egregiously inappropriate appointments to critical government positions, denigration of condoms and blatant disregard of scientific evidence. The author concludes that it's time to align the international and domestic reproductive-rights fields, as they have been working for too many years in "separate silos."

Note to editors: Executive editor Katherine Spillar and publisher Eleanor Smeal are available for interviews.