Secretary of State Clinton Calls it Like it Is on Reducing Maternal Mortality

In a strong articulation of the U.S. position in support of reproductive health services, Secretary of State Clinton pushed back on the Canadian assertion that policy to achieve access contraception or ensure safe abortion services should not be included in the strategy for the reduction of maternal mortality.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told it like it is when in Canada on March 30: “Reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal safe abortions,” she said during a news conference.

The health links between contraception and maternal health – which enables women’s bodies to recover between births and to delay pregnancy until women are physically able to safely carry the pregnancy to term – have long been known and promoted. Every year, nearly 70,000 women die unnecessarily from the complications of unsafe abortions, and countless more suffer infections, infertility, and debilitating injuries. It doesn’t take an epidemiologist or social scientist to realize the positive impact that access to contraceptive services and safe abortion would have on the maternal mortality rates.

Canada has been spearheading a G8 effort to address maternal morbidity and mortality globally – and since late February has been wavering in its support for systematically addressing this entrenched health problem. With all the progress that has been made over the years on a range of health issues, there has never really been a significant improvement on maternal morbidity and mortality.

Clinton’s welcomed and strong remarks will help the G8 and the rest of the world move forward. There are no simple solutions to this – and Clinton’s statement reminds the world about the practical steps that need to be taken to make a dent in this global health problem. Kudos to that kind of leadership – we’re behind you all the way.

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