NEW YORK, August 31 (C-Fam) | Can women and adolescents be healthy without abortion and contraception? According to an association of nurses who spoke at UN headquarters last week, the answer is a resounding yes.
“Are women aware of all the alternatives out there for supporting their fertility health?” asked Maria Arvonio, a registered nurse and nurse educator of the National Association of Catholic Nurses. Notably, Arvonio and other speakers used “fertility health” instead of “reproductive health,” a ubiquitous UN term that is used to legitimize abortion and contraception as a staple of international health policy.
Arvonio presented testimony of nursing experts in Nigeria, Kenya, and eSwatini [formerly known as Swaziland] of how African women lack access to information about fertility awareness-based methods to avoid pregnancy. She also explained how these women often only have access to powerful hormonal contraceptives like Depo Provera that can cause delayed return of fertility, increased cancer risks, higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, and irreversible bone mass depletion among other side effects.
The World Health Organization’ s guidelines continue to back powerful injectable hormonal contraceptives because “the advantages of these methods generally outweigh the possible increased risk of HIV acquisition.”
“Are we causing more harm than good?”, Arvonio asked. C-Fam Associate Director of Research Rebecca Oas described how neither countries nor the UN system provides women alternatives to contraception and abortion. She gave examples of how the UN system is actually creating obstacles to providing women alternatives to contraception through statistical indicators that urge countries to increase access to contraception.
“[These indicators] tend to reflect the priorities of groups whose goal is to increase contraceptive use, not necessarily to give women and girls on the ground what they are asking for themselves”, Oas said.
Countries where women have access to and use fertility awareness-based methods to avoid pregnancy are unfairly characterized as failing to provide women with access to contraception by statistical indicators designed by the World Health Organization and the UN Population Fund to measure progress on UN the Sustainable Development Goal targets 3.7 and 5.6 of the UN agreement known as the 2030 Agenda.
Oas explained that fertility awareness-based methods of family planning are classified as “traditional” or “non-modern” by the UN agencies and therefore count against nations’ performance on the UN family planning goals. According to presenters, there is much that countries must still do to help women avoid abortion, a goal that nations continue to embrace in multiple UN agreements each year. Marian Nowak, assistant professors at Rutgers School of Nursing, presented her work on a new curriculum in an urban high school with a high teen pregnancy rate. The curriculum educated students about pregnancy, fetal development, and what actually happens in an abortion, which was shocking for many of them, Nowak said. The results were striking. The teen pregnancy rate dropped to zero within four years of implementing the curriculum. “Once the students excluded the possibility of having an abortion, the pregnancy rate went down”, Nowak said.
The event on the margins of the 67th UN Department of Public Information NGO Conference was titled “Empowering Women and Girls: Global Strategies for Crossing Multi-Generational and Cultural Barriers”. It was co-hosted by the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medical-Social Assistants (CICIAMS), C-Fam, publisher of the Friday Fax, Fertility Care Centers of Africa (Nigeria), and the National Association of Catholic Nurses – USA. The event was moderated by Patricia Sayers, assistant professors at Rutgers School of Nursing.