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Kumar: Don’t forget women’s reproductive health in the wake of Harvey



Photo: Jon Shapley, Staff

A gaggle of individuals prayed final yr outdoors of the Planned Parenthood clinic at 4600 Gulf Freeway in Houston. ( Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle )

A gaggle of individuals prayed final yr outdoors of the Planned…

We’ve all watched with disbelief and unhappiness as Hurricane Harvey has devastated elements of Texas and the Gulf Coast. Charity and shelter are desperately wanted proper now. Public health help shall be essential not solely in the short-term but in addition for months and years to return.

But I’m wondering: Will the emergency aid provides embrace contraceptives and medical abortion tablets? Will abortion and contraception suppliers be amongst these deployed to provide care to catastrophe victims? The expertise of Hurricane Mathew in Haiti, the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans inform us that many women might be determined to stop being pregnant. In Texas, the place the reproductive health infrastructure has already been decimated by politically motivated state legislators, I think there shall be few assets for women in want.


Texas has the highest maternal mortality fee in America, which itself has the highest mortality price in the developed world. Maternal mortality disproportionately impacts poor women and women of shade who usually tend to die throughout being pregnant than different women. Black women, for example, are 3 times extra more likely to die than white women.

Politicians in Texas have labored lengthy and onerous to close down Planned Parenthood clinics that provide contraception and abortion, ensuing in a decline in the use of long-acting contraception and a rise in Medicaid-funded deliveries. In a state the place entry to contraception, abortion and different reproductive health care is already onerous to get, how probably are women to get that care now after a lot of our area was actually underneath water?

Global knowledge on pure disasters inform us that reproductive health wants, together with entry to dependable, efficient contraception, truly improve in the wake of a catastrophe like Harvey. Studies present that women expertise greater charges of sexual assault throughout and after disasters. According to at least one report, the price of sexual assault in Mississippi almost quadrupled in the yr after Katrina.

The United Nations, in collaboration with NGOs, has created an emergency response plan referred to as the Minimal Initial Service Package. The MISP requires a collection of actions to satisfy the speedy wants of catastrophe victims. The plan encourages authorities to deal with reproductive health points, together with sexual violence, emergency obstetric care and HIV. The MISP additionally consists of reproductive health kits that may be simply deployed throughout a catastrophe. The kits embrace oral and injectable contraception, emergency contraception, condoms, a rape remedy package, an IUD package and guide vacuum aspirators for supply, amongst different issues.

Where are these provides for Harvey’s victims? Who is searching for women’s wants? Or, will women in Texas be like the Haitian lady who advised a researcher with Human Rights Watch that after the preliminary earthquake response the world moved on to different points.

“Nobody remembers us,” the lady stated.


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Kumar is the chief of technique and improvement at Ipas, a worldwide NGO devoted to decreasing maternal mortality and growing entry to reproductive healthcare.


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