If Men Had Uteruses…

I must interrupt my packing and laundry chores to point you to Nicholas Kristof's excellent column in today's Times. He takes us in the maternity ward in Pakistan and explains that the baby died, because the family did not want to pay a $3 taxi ride. The grieving father says that "it is God's will… There is nothing we can do." Kristof responds with fury.

That’s incorrect. If men had uteruses,
“paternity wards” would get resources, ambulances would transport
pregnant men to hospitals free of charge, deliveries would be free, and
the Group of 8 industrialized nations would make paternal mortality a
top priority. One of the most lethal forms of sex discrimination is
this systematic inattention to reproductive health care, from family
planning to childbirth — so long as those who die are impoverished,
voiceless women.

Thankfully, there is the dawn of a global
movement against maternal mortality. Prime Minister Gordon Brown of
Britain and the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, are
trying to work with the United States and other countries to hold a
landmark global health session at the U.N. focusing, in part, on
maternal health. If that comes to pass, on Sept. 23, it will be a
milestone. My dream is that Barack and Michelle Obama will leap forward
and adopt this cause — and transform the prospects for so many young
women like Shazia.

I can't say more then "amen, brother" and use my blog to spread the word. Thank God, someone is covering these issues for the New York Times.

Here's more from Doctors Without Borders.

5 thoughts on “If Men Had Uteruses…

  1. I agree with Kristof that there are structural issues that disempower women, and that it’s terrible that women do not get to make the decisions about how and when their babies are delivered in Pakistan.
    But, reading the article provides an interesting contrast to the significant fight we’ve had in more developed nations to avoid an over-medicalization of childbirth. For example, I suspect that it’s pretty much impossible for a doctor to “immediately [see] that Shazia’s baby could not fit through her pelvis.”
    In India, among “middle class” families, the idea of a hospital birth (and c-sections) have now become a status item — the middle class pay for hospital births (and a rapidly increasing rate of c-sections, some certainly medically unnecessary).
    In a similar article about Afghanistan, two significant maternal health risks came up — precamplysia and failure to progress. Preecamplysia is eminently treatable in the US (and very easy to diagnose), and prenatal case would almost certainly detect it (medical care = good). Failure to progress is more complicated, and in the particular pattern described in this article difficult to diagnose absolutely. Defensive practices in the US might save some babies, but they almost certainly increase the c-section rates enormously. In the US, given the high standards of hospital care, including control of infection, the higher risk to the mother of c-sections might be well balanced, but in South Asia, making that trade-off might be dangerous, especially to maternal health.
    I think a woman should be in charge of her own medical care (not her mother or her aunts or her husband), but that shouldn’t necessarily mean more medicalization of child care, even solely on medical grounds.

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  2. “In the US, given the high standards of hospital care, including control of infection, the higher risk to the mother of c-sections might be well balanced, but in South Asia, making that trade-off might be dangerous, especially to maternal health.”
    Good point. Even (or especially) in the US, hospitals are horribly germy places, but we can compensate for that. Elsewhere in the world, it is a very good idea to stay out of the hospital. (An old friend of mine is a diabetic who has spent many a month in Russian hospitals, and she recently discovered that she has Hepatitis C. On the bright side, the level of medical care available in her area has improved greatly since the 90s, and she’s gotten excellent treatment (I believe from the internationally-funded HIV center.))

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  3. Hmm, no sale here. Following Kristof’s logic, there should be marches every week in Central Park to raise money for prostate cancer research while everyone ignores breast cancer, politicians should prattle constantly about helping young men in prison while promising to get tough with single mothers, etc.

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