China: Surrogate mums here to stay

For wealthy mainland families, going overseas to give birth is just one of the many ways of evading Beijing’s one-child policy. Using surrogate mothers is another – at least for the time being.

Mainland authorities are now determined to close that loophole, by shutting down a thriving surrogacy industry, particularly after reports late last year brought to light the case of a wealthy Guangzhou couple who had eight babies with the help of two surrogate mothers. Upset by the tycoon’s violation of the one-child policy, Guangdong family-planning and health officials have vowed to arrest the agent who facilitated the surrogate pregnancies. However, they also admitted that a crackdown lacked the support of a legislative framework. The mainland does have a technology code on ”human-assisted reproduction” that was issued by the Ministry of Health in 2001 and bans hospitals from trading in embryos or assisting in surrogate pregnancies. Medical institutions breaching these rules face fines of up to 30,000 yuan [£3,000]. But the mainland does not have other regulations governing surrogacy.

The use of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) technology to implant embryos in surrogate mothers is a controversial topic around the world. It is allowed in India and some parts of the US, but it remains controversial throughout the world, particularly for enabling surrogate motherhood. In Hong Kong, commercial surrogacy is a criminal offence but no prosecutions have been made under the Human Reproductive Technology Ordinance since it was passed in 2000. Late last year, police declined to press charges after a 10-month investigation into an alleged surrogacy deal involving Henderson Land Development vice-chairman Peter Lee Ka-kit, who had three sons born to him by a woman in the United States.

Read the full article: South China Morning Post

More about population

India: Fertility rate drops by 19% in 10 yrs

India’s total fertility rate (TFR) – the average number of children expected to be born per woman during her reproductive years – has fallen by19% over the past decade.

Among bigger states, the percentage decline in TFR during this period the last decade varied from as high as 28% in Punjab to 5.6%in Kerala. Maharashtra saw the second highest dip in TFR between 2000-2010 at 26.9%, followed by Haryana and Andhra Pradesh (25%), Uttar Pradesh (23%), Rajasthan (22%), Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal (21%).

The latest Sample Registration System 2010 data finalized by the Registrar General of India and sent to the Union health ministry on Saturday says India’s TFR, which had remained stagnant in 2008 and 2009 at 2.6, finally has dropped by 0.1 points in 2010. India’s TFR now stands at 2.5 as against a TFR of 3.2 in 2000. Education has been found to play a major role in determining TFR. On average, an illiterate woman in India is bearing 1.2 children more than a literate woman (3.4 against 2.2). The TFR among women who have studied till at least class X was as low as 1.9. This further dips to 1.6 among women who have studied till class XII.

Read the full article: The Times of India

More about population

China: Boy-girl ratio improves, but is still among world’s worst

Mainland authorities have hailed the success of efforts to curb the gender imbalance among newborns, with the ratio of boys to girls dropping for the past three years in a row. However, the latest ratio is still one of world’s highest.

It is the first time the ratio has declined in three successive years since the late 1970s, when the compulsory one-child policy was implemented, the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily reported yesterday. There were 117.78 boys born for every 100 girls last year, down from 117.94 in 2010 and 119.45 in 2009. ‘These continual sex ratio declines demonstrate the achievements of our comprehensive efforts over the past few years, like the crackdown against the abuse of ultrasonic screening to determine an infant’s sex and sex-selective abortion, as well as the campaigns to care for girls,’ the newspaper quoted Zhang Jian , spokesman for the National Population and Family Planning Commission, as saying. He added that the ratio was still high and the authorities would need to keep working on the problem.

Experts have warned that there will be 24 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020. They say the natural newborn sex ratio should be 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls. The mainland’s skewed sex ratio at birth is in part the result of its one-child policy and people’s traditional preference for boys over girls – a prejudice especially widely held in rural areas.

Read the full article: South China Morning Post

More about sustainable population

Nigeria: 90 percent of women are not using contraception

Nine out of 10 Nigerian women of childbearing age are not using modern contraceptive methods. This is one of the startling revelations at a stakeholders’ dissemination on the Universal Access to female Condom programme aimed at increasing demand and access to female condoms in Nigeria.

Studies have shown that the country has a low contraceptive prevalence rate of 10 per cent as regards modern family method which has resulted to unplanned pregnancy and increased maternal mortality rates. Indeed, reports have shown that the incidence of HIV in Nigeria is also relatively high among West African countries, especially among women and girls who disproportionately bear the HIV and AIDS burden in the country, both in risk and in care for those who are infected and affected by HIV.

To address the situation, stakeholders last week converged on Lagos to examine the challenges posed by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies as well as proffer solutions. According to the experts, the use of female condoms will help to minimise the occurrence of STDs, unplanned pregnancies and mortality rates in West African countries even as they urged women of childbearing age to urgently embrace the use of female condoms to reduce the risks involved in unprotected sex.

Read the full article: Vanguard (Nigeria)

More on reproductive health

Growth in world contraceptive use stalling: 215 million women’s needs still unmet

In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, recognized reproductive health and family planning as fundamental human rights. Delegates committed to making voluntary family planning services universally available by 2015. Now just three years from that deadline, at least 215 million women want to prevent or delay pregnancy but are not using effective contraception.

This ‘unmet need’ for family planning may be due to poor reproductive health information, social pressures, or insufficient access to contraceptive options. In Africa, more than 1 in 4 women have unmet need – by far the highest rate of any region. Since an estimated 40 percent of all pregnancies are unintended, ensuring universal access to voluntary contraception is key to stabilizing population. Access to family planning also improves child and maternal health and reduces the number of abortions.

According to the United Nations, 63 percent of partnered, reproductive-age women worldwide, representing about 740 million couples, practice some form of contraception. Almost 90 percent of them employ modern methods, which include oral contraception (“the pill”), condoms, injections, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and sterilization. Contraceptive prevalence was increasing until 2000, but growth has stalled since then.

Read the full article: Earth Policy Institute

More on reproductive health

Philippines: Condom queues incite church tensions

Lorna Villar gave birth seven times in 14 years. After her last pregnancy pushed the 34-year-old’s blood pressure to dangerous levels, the Manila mom says contraception became a life or death matter. Villar now lines up in a crowded clinic between an auto repair shop and a kiosk selling sodas to avoid more pregnancies. The intrauterine device she had inserted free by a charity puts her among the 34 percent of Filipino women ages 15 to 49 using modern birth control — about the same proportion as in Myanmar and Iraq, United Nations data show. ‘It’s such a relief to know I won’t fall pregnant again,’ says Villar, sitting on the concrete floor of her windowless, 20 square meter (215 square feet) home in Tondo, one of Manila’s poorest neighborhoods. The 7,000 pesos ($160) a month her husband makes driving cranes and ferrying people in a tricycle taxi is barely enough to live off, she says.

One in five women of reproductive age in the Philippines have an unmet family planning need, the UN Population Fund says, leading to unintended pregnancies and population growth twice the Asian average. Relief may come from a reproductive health bill backed by President Benigno Aquino that promises free or subsidized contraception, especially for the poor, says Ugochi Daniels, the fund’s country representative in the Philippines. ‘This bill is the silver bullet to make the problem more manageable,’ says Carlos Celdran, an activist in Manila who was jailed for a day after a protest he staged at a 2010 bishop’s meeting in the city’s cathedral. ‘How can people not see this as an emergency situation?’ 

The bill has been re-filed and blocked in each three-year congressional term since it was introduced in legislature 14 years ago amid opposition from the Catholic Church — the faith of at least 80 percent of the nation’s 95 million people. This time, with presidential support, it may be put to a vote in congress in three months.

Read the full article: Bloomberg  (US)

More about choosing a smaller family

UK to host family planning summit in July 2012

The UK Government is working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and partners to host a Family Planning summit in London in July 2012.

The event will aim to generate unprecedented political commitment and resources from developing countries, donors, the private sector, civil society and other partners to meet the family planning needs of women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020.

There are hundreds of millions of women in developing countries who want to delay or avoid a pregnancy but are not using an effective method of family planning. The UK Department for International Development’s priority for this year is to support national governments’ efforts to increase access to family planning in the poorest countries. This is part of the UK’s contribution to the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health “Every Woman, Every Child.”

Increasing access to family planning information, services and supplies has dramatic health benefits for women and children, preventing up to a quarter of maternal deaths. It is also an extremely cost effective investment towards the achievement of the maternal and child health Millennium Development Goals and wider development outcomes. And yet, global attention and leadership on this issue has been lacking.

International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said:

“Every woman should be able to choose whether and when she has children, yet for 215 million women across the developing world this is not an option.

“The UK Government is determined to take action. We will work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and our partners to improve the lives of millions of girls and women in the poorest countries who want to avoid pregnancy and improve their health, education and future chances.

“That is why Britain will host a Family Planning summit later this year to help them take charge of their lives for the better.”

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UK: Global leaders call for increased efforts in family planning on Women’s Day

Leaders from the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health addressed members of both houses of the British parliament on Thursday, the International Women’s Day, calling for more efforts in family planning to improve reproductive health of women.

‘Reproductive health is an essential investment if we are to achieve a world with healthy families and communities, stable societies and abundant natural resources,’ said Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and chairperson of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health. She noted that family planning is not only a fundamental right, providing women and girls with real choices in planning their futures, but also saves lives and builds the foundation for economic development.

A study showed that currently over 215 million women around the world wanted to delay or avoid their next pregnancy, but didn’t have access to reproductive health information or services to do so. Otherwise one quarter of all maternal deaths and one fifth of newborn deaths could be prevented, and up to 70 percent of all abortions could be averted. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said, ‘Every woman should be able to choose whether and when she has children, yet for millions of women across the developing world this is not an option.’ He said that the British government is determined to take action to improve the lives of girls and women in the poorest countries. ‘Britain alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will host a Family Planning Summit later this year to help women take charge of their lives for the better,’ he said.

Read the full article: Xinhua News Service (China)

Uganda: Reproductive health voucher scheme

In September 2008, the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) launched an output based aid (OBA) voucher scheme to bring maternal and other reproductive health services to rural communities in Western Uganda.  The project set out to deliver 50,456 safe deliveries and 35,000 sexually transmitted disease (STD) treatments.  […]  By December 2011, when the project closed, more than 136,000 people had been independently verified as having received a range of reproductive health services.

This note captures some of the key lessons learned from the implementation of the OBA voucher scheme. The project built on proven experiences by using lessons from a successful precedent. GPOBA’s pilot built on the success of KfW’s experience [a German government-owned development bank] which had already proved that a voucher approach improved marketability, simplified targeting of sales to the poor, minimized the administrative burden for service providers, and controlled overall project costs.

Source:  The World Bank

More on reproductive health

International Women’s Day 2012 – Reproductive health is the route to ending rural hunger and poverty

Population Matters fully supports the UN’s call, on International Women’s Day 2012, for the empowering of rural women as a contributor to the fight against hunger and poverty.  We endorse the call for the ending of discrimination against women, for access for women to resources and power, and for women-friendly policies.

However, these objectives can only be fully achieved if they are accompanied by universal access to reproductive health.  It is estimated that 215 million women who want to avoid pregnancy do not use effective family planning methods, often due to a lack of effective access to regular and affordable supplies. (Guttmacher Institute/ UNFPA)  The number of young people entering adulthood is at a record high level and it is critical to sustainable development that they are enabled to determine their own family size.

Despite increasing awareness that the continuing high birth rates in many countries is not in the interests of either women or society as a whole, overseas development aid for reproductive health has been declining in real terms. (UNFPA)  Yet it would cost only an additional $3.6bn per annum to provide universal access to modern family planning methods. (Guttmacher Institute/ UNFPA).

Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters commented: “The UN is right to call, on International Women’s Day 2012, for the ending of discrimination against women, for access for women to resources and power, and for women-friendly policies.  However, reproductive health is an essential component and should be at the heart of strategies for women’s equality.  Moreover, empowered women with access to reproductive health tend to have smaller families.  That is better for social development, for the environment and for long term sustainability.”