By Jodi Jacobson, Editor-in-Chief, RH Reality Check

At the UN, only men will get to decide MDG priorities for women’s and children’s health. Including Bill Gates who is anti-abortion.

Consider this:

Men don’t get pregnant.

Completely preventable complications of pregnancy, labor, unsafe abortion and AIDS-related illnesses remain the leading causes of death and disability among women in countries throughout the world due to lack of political will, lack of funding, and the politicization of sexual and reproductive health by fundamentalist religious and political actors.

Women now make up the majority of those infected with HIV worldwide and over two-thirds of those infected in sub-Saharan Africa.

Women and girls continue to face profound discrimination in access to education, employment, and political power in virtually every country (yes, including the United States).  Women continue to experience high rates of sexual violence and coercion, high rates of child marriage, and low rates of access to basic reproductive and sexual health care, including safe abortion.

The health and well-being of newborns, infants, and children rests primarily on women.  In communities riven by poverty, violence and discrimination, the death of a mother too often results in the neglect, deteriorating health, abuse, or death of her child(ren).

Consider also that virtually all of these issues remained invisible–or just plain unimportant–to the largely male power structures in every country for the past several decades, until the global women’s movement gained traction in their fight to put them on the global agenda.

Given these realities, it would seem that appointments to a recently convened United Nations High-level Advocacy Group focused on pushing for progress on the Millennium Development Goals would take pains to put high-level women in charge–at least in equal numbers to their male counterparts–of advocating for maternal health, child health, and HIV and AIDS, as well as those “other things” like economic development, in which women, as all the development literature has repeated ad nauseum for 40 years, are essential actors.

Someone, somewhere, did not get the memo.

A “final” July 1 2010 list of prominent individuals circulated by the United Nations End Poverty 2015 Millennium Campaign comprising the “Global Advocacy Team” indicates that not one woman has been assigned to Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 (to reduce child mortality), MDG 5 (to improve maternal health), or MDG 6 (to combat HIV and AIDS and malaria).

This is, quite simply, astounding.

And yet, its not.  Because in the pattern of all things having to do with women’s health–whether we are talking about Utah or Nebraska, Uganda or the United Nations–there are other truths.  Men continue to control the agenda and to decide how much or how little money and attention will be paid to ending the epidemic of pregnancy- and sexually-transmitted infection-related deaths and illnesses that robs millions of women of their lives and health every year worldwide.  Men continue to decide what priorities will be on the table when they do “pay attention” to these issues, and when they won’t, for reasons of their own political or financial agendas or their own ideological or political affiliations or all of the above, address honestly one of the leading and most preventable causes of pregnancy-related death and illness, that being unsafe abortion. Men continue to decide  whether they will, for the sake of ideology cloaked as “common ground,” push for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that leave women disproportionately vulnerable to HIV and AIDS, leave the issue of safe abortion out of research and international documents, confront other issues like stoning as “adulterers” women who’ve been raped, or “accept” that ending the war in Afghanistan likely means leaving women to the “mercy” of the Taliban.  Men decide whether we can talk about women’s health writ large, or even their sexual and reproductive health writ large, or only about the mommas and the babies. (more…)