Caring To Death

May 7, 2010 09:00 AM

When the word “care” is used, I think immediately of some of the finest pro-life charitable works of mercy in the world. Organizations such as Care Net come to mind and, on the international scale, MaterCare International, an organization dedicated to the care of mothers and babies, both born and preborn, through new initiatives of service, training, research and advocacy, which are designed to reduce the tragically high rates of maternal mortality, morbidity and abortion.

The founder of MaterCare International, Dr. Robert L. Walley, MPH (Harvard), executive director and honorary research professor of obstetrics and gynecology, testified during a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs:

Some 200 million women are pregnant worldwide each year.  Most mothers deliver in villages without access to safe, clean facilities in which to deliver and without a trained person to assist them. Most maternal deaths occur during the last trimester and in the first week following delivery. Prior to going to Nigeria in 1981, I had never been present or had a mother die under my care from a direct obstetrical cause. Maternal deaths in Canada are at the level of what is called irreducible minimums, 1/100.000 live births. However, in the mission hospital maternal deaths were almost a daily event and I recall one weekend during which there were four deaths of mothers who had arrived at the hospital in extremis from hemorrhage, one in agony from obstructed labor, and another after days in labor with a ruptured uterus as she was young and consequently her pelvis was too small. Others would arrive unconscious due to pregnancy-induced hypertension or suffering from malaria, or severe anemia resulting from malnutrition. Many more mothers die in Africa alone and in terror in the villages, as they have no way of getting to the hospital. Not only are the lives of these mothers abruptly ended but also the lives of their babies and, in the aftermath, the chances of survival of their young children decrease dramatically, resulting in the disintegration of their families.

The situation for these mothers, their babies and their families is indeed a cause of much concern for the entire, worldwide pro-life community, as well it should be. This is why I was very interested to hear of CARE’s National Conference being held in Washington, D.C. next week on May 11 and 12. But my initial hopes were dashed as I began to read a bit more about this meeting.  This celebration, designed to bring women together from around the world to fight global poverty, has an underlying theme that is not readily apparent to the casual observer. 

A quick scan of the agenda tells the real story. The keynote speech is to be delivered by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton—no friend of the preborn. And, throughout the event, other known proponents of abortion, birth control and sterilization will be featured. The bottom line, it would seem, is population control, not “care” in the sense one might think.

CARE describes itself as an organization that defends dignity and fights poverty. It has been in the business of helping the poor for many years and works with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in 66 countries. All of the public relations material about this organization sound good, but at least some of what it promotes is not good for mothers, expectant mothers and the future generations in the third world. Just below the surface of these fine-sounding words, one detects the same old problems that have plagued the third world for many years when the USA gets involved, and that is so-called reproductive health programs. CARE is certainly no exception.

When discussing the work of the organization, CARE informs the web site visitor:

Effective programming in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is a vital component of CARE's work to reduce poverty and social injustice. Improving SRH and addressing the unmet need for family planning are central to CARE's commitment to poverty reduction and gender equity. It is clear that improvements in SRH - and health in general - are linked to economic and social development and must be addressed to achieve sustainable reductions in poverty. CARE is committed to improving access to, and use of, quality SRH information and services by poor and vulnerable people. CARE is equally committed to addressing the underlying causes of poor SRH status.

Such semantics represent the same old broken record that we have heard for years. The solutions to poverty and injustice for women always seem to commence in a direct line toward dangerous birth control chemicals and easily available abortion. Nothing has changed over the years—except that now with the push forward being orchestrated by the Obama administration, the speedy progress toward more killing in the name of ending poverty seems a foregone conclusion. 

And as if this were not bad enough, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute’s (C-FAM) Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D. reports that CARE Executive Director Helene Gayle “is an avid advocate for an international human right to abortion on demand. She was a key figure at the 2007 Women Deliver conference and a founding partner of the International Initiative on Maternal Mortality and Human Rights which seeks to make abortion rights part of a new international right to maternal health.”

Clearly, there is a problem waiting to happen in Washington, D.C. on May 11 and 12. And while we can all agree that there is nothing wrong with fighting discrimination against women, not to mention the many abuses that occur in some countries due to a warped vision of how women should be treated in a just society, the way to go about correcting such inequities should not depend on killing preborn children. 

The challenge of striving to restore respect for the human person should never be consonant with the very practices that result in women being deceived and, in many cases, used as human guinea pigs as researchers and pharmaceutical companies work to refine abortion techniques and abortion-causing chemicals. There is no equality when the poor are treated in such an inhumane fashion, regardless of the candy coating that is wrapped around the ugliness beneath the surface.

Dr. Walley pointed out to the U.S. Congress, when describing the tactics of the NGOs,  

The consensus of the obstetrical community is that mothers need essential prenatal care, skilled attendants at all deliveries and specialist care for life-threatening complications. While billions of dollars have been spent on reproductive health programmes and as more is demanded, only a small fraction is focused on providing the services that ensure mothers survive their pregnancies. 

In my experience, mothers in Africa are optimistic and want to have babies, as they know they are the future of their families, communities and countries. Mothers in developing countries do not expect to die or to suffer birth injuries and those who die obviously have no voice, only ours, to plead their cases for adequate care—care of the sort which mothers have access to in the United States of America and Canada, which is second to none, but which is frequently taken for granted. I have found that mothers in Africa are becoming aware of what has been done to unborn babies in the rich world. They are becoming increasingly angry and resistant at attempts at coercion by NGOs to make them accept the killing of their babies, which is totally contrary to their faith and cultural and beliefs. It is egregious that any government or international health agency should suggest that the lives and health of African mothers should be improved by the killing of their unborn babies. We are all too familiar with the violence caused to women by commission (e.g., by sexual assault, genital mutilation and torture), but this neglect of mothers is violence as the result of omission. The root cause of all this suffering will not be solved by more death and despair.


It’s time to protest events that are fundamentally committed to anything but restoring respect for the human person. If you will be in the vicinity of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue next week, make it a point to stand up for human personhood and against the ongoing population-control manipulators of the poor.

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