UN declares contraception as a human right


Citing statistics of tens-of-millions of unwanted pregnancies in the poorest countries, millions of abortions and tens-of-thousands of women dying in childbirth, the UN's Population Fund is asserting that access to family planning and contraceptives is a Universal Human Right. It is a designation that has outraged conservative and religious critics who accuse the UN of colonialism and of misguided policies that will infringe on basic rights and fob western drugs onto unsuspecting women. Proponents argue family planning rights will reduce infant and maternal death, enable women and bring prosperity. Today we take on this debate.

UN declares contraception as a human right

We started this segment with a clip from Charles Kawuma, a family planning advocate in Uganda. He works with the United Nations Population Fund to spread information about safe contraception. Tape provided by the United Nations documents how the efforts of Mr. Kawuma and others help women like Grace Manpigga plan their families.

The UN estimates there were 80 million unwanted pregnancies in poor countries this year. Half were aborted and roughly 100,000 mothers died in childbirth. The World Health Organization says (pdf) adolescents aged 10 to 19 account for 11% of all births worldwide and the risk of maternal death in Latin America is four times higher among those under 16 than those in their 20's.

It's against that backdrop that the UN Population Fund's annual report (pdf) last month on family planning and access to contraception as a universal human right that must be respected. That view is causing controversy. Some critics say the report puts reproductive rights over religious liberties. And some doctors argue funding should be focused on preventing maternal deaths.

Niki Ashton is an NDP MP for the riding of Churchill Manitoba. She's also the Status of Women critic for the official opposition. And she is on the UN's side in this debate. She joined us from Ottawa.

And Gwen Landolt is a Canadian lawyer and the national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada. She was in Toronto.

This segment was produced by The Current's Josh Bloch and Shannon Higgins.

Music Bridge

Artist: Thievery Corporation
CD: It Takes a Thief: Best of Thievery Corporation
Cut: # 1, Amerimacka
Spine: ESL 164

Pranks & Hoaxes Mail

We started this segment with a couple of famous pranks over the last few years. But unlike these, where comedians were catching politicians off-guard ... the prank that involved nurse Jacintha Saldanha, dragged an ordinary citizen into a blazing, international limelight.

Yesterday, we hashed out where to draw the line when it comes to pranks with some well-known pranksters including former Candid Camera host Peter Funt and comedian Mary Walsh, aka Marg Delahunty.

We heard lots more afterwards.

On Facebook, Bill MacKenzie posted this:

The prank was harmless. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the nurse died, whether it be suicide or not.

Monika Dankova of Ottawa wrote:

Peter Funt raised the issue of "lasting comedic value" -- pray tell, where is the lasting comedic value of this prank? It has neither the sweet humour of Candid Camera, nor the searing wit of an encounter with Marg Delahunty -- just what, exactly, is funny? I just fail to see what is humourous in phoning a hospital and tricking hardworking nurses into revealing confidential medical information and then broadcasting it around the world.

Shaun Masterson of Ottawa emailed us this:

Comedians make a choice to make their living on the public stage. It's not a choice many of us make, including Ms Saldanha.
A simple phone call; a flustered moment; an errant decision, and she was instantaneously part of an international news story. From private life to public judgment in the wink of an eye.

And Carolynne Windich tweeted this:

Agreed, it is offensive that innocent members of the public are viewed as sources of entertainment. Is this adult bullying?

And one final comment from Alexandra Hughes of Toronto who writes:

Perhaps the death of Jacintha Saldanha has less to do with the prank, and more to do with the 24 hour news cycle that turns a nothing story into global headline news ... such as the Ikea monkey. The prank isn't to blame. The fallout - brought on by all the media coverage - is to blame.

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Other segment from today's show:

Still living in limbo after the Manitoba flood

Hugh Brody: From Nunavut to Kalahari

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