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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 09:48 GMT
Should childbirth care be a human right?
Mother and children

There has been a call to make the provision of professional care during childbirth a human right.

Carol Bellamy, head of the United Nations Children Fund UNICEF, raised the issue following a grim UN report which said African women are 175 times more likely to die in childbirth and pregnancy than their counterparts in western countries.

One in 16 die during this period because the women deliver the children alone or with untrained attendants who could not recognise complications.

The report claims that the deaths and disabilities could be avoided, if only expert care and access to emergency services were readily available.

As maternal health has been made one of the UN's millennium goals, do you think that the provision of professional care during pregnancy and labour should be made a human right? Send us your views.

Some of the responses will be used on the Focus on Africa programme on Saturday.

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

I would like to say YES. But for every $1 spent on men by the National Health Service in the UK $5 or more is spent on women. How would this extra expenditure be considered? Somebody has to pay and in many countries there is not enough money. Some money should be found to reduce the number of children being born, there are already more than enough people in the world. Those in the best position to reduce the birth rate are women.
Ian Hill, Bolivia (UK)

I don't think it should be a human right. I think it's important and efforts should be made have a healthcare professional during birth. I think the UN is way off base on this issue. However, if the UN wants to fund schools and recruit people to attend them that fine by me, but I don't want me tax payer money doing it. We have enough health problems in the US.
Mike Daly, USA

In order for Africa to get into shape, women need to be empowered
Katrina, Norway
In order for Africa to get into shape, women need to be empowered. This means get them educated and give them equal rights. This will of course lead to lower birth rates, but this is a good thing. There will be more prosperity and fewer maternal and infant deaths. Get the religious cuckoos out of Africa, you know, the ones who are doing all they can to prevent the empowerment of women.
Katrina, Norway

This is the 21st century - you would think that Humanity would recognize that giving birth is as important to humanity as breathing. With that said - YES - this should be a right not a privilege. Woman should have the right to access services when needed. But this also goes into a much bigger picture - of medicine/vitamins for woman in Africa or elsewhere, with the taking of vitamins to make their children healthy, they should also know where to go or have someone check up on them regularly through the last month of pregnancy. Just as we breath the air - our children should have a right to breath is also.
Lise DB, Canada

In Africa the whole issue of birth rate and childbirth care needs to be looked into. Can Africa afford better childbirth care when their birth rate is so high?
Louise, Sydney, Australia

Who would pay for this "Right"? The taxpayers of the developed nations. If YOU would like to pay for healthcare during pregnancy for third world nations, be my guest, but you can't have my money to do it. My tax burden is way too high as it is.
Keith, USA

Mothers should be given as much support as possible, particularly in developing countries where maternal death rates are higher
Jen, USA
Of course childbirth care must be declared a human right. This issue touches every single one of us - we are all the product of a woman's labour. Mothers should be given as much support as possible, particularly in developing countries where maternal death rates are higher. Likewise in the US, mothers should think about getting into shape rather than opting for more convenient c-sections. We (as a planet) are responsible for the futures of our children, whether they are loved ones or strangers; to shy away from this responsibility is cruelty.
Jen, USA

Would it be realistic to deem that childbirth is not a human right? It has to be a human right, to many it is certainly not a choice. It is a fact of life, and it must be dealt with as such. Where would we be with a zero percent birth rate? Extinct, that is where!
Margaret, USA

It must. Health care for all humans in all situations is needed around the world. Never is one more at risk than at birth, and as long as women die in childbirth the nations lack stability.(Some day maybe even the US will have health care.)

Childbirth care SHOULD be a human right? If not so what should happen to our future. At least I know some countries would like to see their people 'Live' The main problem here is childbirth care in developing countries. Why don't developed nations assist them in this issue? Continents will die out if this issue is not dealt with.
Lisa, Kenya

There is much work to be done to substantially reduce maternal mortality and disabilities in the continent
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leone/USA
The problem of maternal mortality in Africa is a rather intricate issue predicated on socio-cultural and politico-economic indices. The provision of and access to professional care during pregnancy and labour can, in part, reduce the high incidence of maternal mortality rate is Africa. Much more salient issues of concern are meaningful efforts by governments and NGOs in alleviating poverty, educating African women on the importance of regular attendance of maternity clinics, provision of poor women with adequate food (in quantity and quality) to reduce the incidence of malnutrition, sensitizing women about the risk of teenage pregnancy and the need to space children and increasing the number and professional training of Traditional Birth attendants.

This can only be effective if there is a reduction in the strong cultural attachment (on child birth and related issues) that is prevalent in most African countries particularly so in rural areas. It is, indeed, a plausible idea! to make maternal health care a human right. However, there is much work to be done to substantially reduce maternal mortality and disabilities in the continent.
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leone/USA

Nobody should be forced to give birth in dangerous conditions! All women should have both the option of giving birth safely and the option of not giving birth. This is especially important because often the same woman wants both - wants to stay in school and stay a virgin instead of being married off and impregnated before she's grown enough to bear children safely, then graduate and marry and give birth safely, then stay married and use birth control once she already has as many children as she and her husband want.

Sigismond Wilson's many points are excellent, including the point about sensitizing women to the risk of teenage pregnancy and the need to space children. However, men need to be educated too - taught to not marry off their daughters so young, to allow their wives to seek prenatal care, and so on.
Liz, USA



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