Home Sexual Health A Conversation with Dr. Zara Ahmed

A Conversation with Dr. Zara Ahmed

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ZaraAhmed_235x176 “Unintended pregnancy and abortion are reproductive health experiences shared by tens of millions of people around the world, irrespective of personal status or circumstance. What differs though are the obstacles,” said Dr. Zara Ahmed, Associate Director of Federal Issues at the Guttmacher Institute in this week’s Friday Podcast. Research from the Guttmacher Institute on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) found that in 2018, there were 121 million unintended pregnancies globally, and of those, 61 percent ended in abortion. About half of these abortions were in unsafe conditions and led to approximately 23,000 preventable pregnancy related deaths, said Ahmed.

“Unintended pregnancy and abortion are reproductive health experiences shared by tens of millions of people around the world, irrespective of personal status or circumstance. What differs though are the obstacles,” said Dr. Zara Ahmed, Associate Director of Federal Issues at the Guttmacher Institute in this week’s Friday Podcast. Research from the Guttmacher Institute on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) found that in 2018, there were 121 million unintended pregnancies globally, and of those, 61 percent ended in abortion. About half of these abortions were in unsafe conditions and led to approximately 23,000 preventable pregnancy related deaths, said Ahmed.

“A major finding of our research is about the legal status of abortion,” said Ahmed. “This is important. Abortion rates are the same where abortion is broadly legal and where it’s restricted – exactly the same.” Guttmacher research shows that in settings where abortion is restricted, the proportion of unintended pregnancies that end in abortion increased nearly 40 percent over the last 30 years.

“There are persistent inequities in meeting needs for contraceptive services,” said Ahmed. Today, 923 million women want to avoid a pregnancy and among these women, about one in four, or 218 million, have an unmet need for modern contraceptive methods. Unmet need for modern contraception is higher in low-income countries and for adolescents than it is in high- income countries and for older women. In order to meet this global need for family planning, the United States must restore funding for UNFPA and increase funding for global family planning and reproductive health programs, said Ahmed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened access to SRH services worldwide. A decline of 10 percent in access to SRH services, said Ahmed, would lead to “an additional 49 million women with an unmet need for modern contraception, an additional 15 million unintended pregnancies, an additional 28,000 maternal deaths, an additional 168,000 newborn deaths, and an additional 3 million unsafe abortions, as well as an additional 1,000 maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion.”

“In the middle of a global pandemic, the Trump administration is trying to make it harder for people to get the [SRH] care they want and need. A few weeks ago, the administration announced that it’s proposing to expand the dangerous and harmful Global Gag Rule even further than it already has,” said Ahmed. The Global Gag Rule (GGR) is a policy that “prevents foreign NGOs that receive U.S. funds through grants and cooperative agreements from using their own non-U.S. funding to provide abortion services, information, counseling, referrals, or advocacy,” she said. Guttmacher research in Uganda shows that the GGR led to a “reduction in the number of community health workers, engaged in family planning work.”

“People are complex and they live multifaceted lives with changing [SRH] needs,” said Ahmed. The global community must invest in the full range of SRH services to meet these needs. “Doing so is a smart investment, but it’s also the right thing to do.”

Friday Podcasts are also available for download on iTunes and Google Podcasts.

Sources: Guttmacher Institute.

https://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2020/10/state-sexual-reproductive-health-rights-conversation-dr-zara-ahmed/

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