Information and technology separate women in America and the Third WorldAll of us would be surprised and shocked if an Astoria or Seaside woman died in childbirth. In the 19th century, that was a common event. It has become a relatively rare occurrence in America.

Some 580,000 women die in childbirth annually worldwide, according to Dr. Alan Rosenfield, dean of the Columbia University School of Public Health. In some countries, the rate of maternal childbirth deaths is very high. For instance, one of every 20 Kenyan women is likely to die during child delivery, according to Dr. Metin Gulmezgolu of the World Health Organization.

Physicians Rosenfield and Gulmezoglu were quoted in the current edition of Popline, which is published by the Population Institute of Washington, D.C.

In America there are 8-12 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births; in developing countries there are 100-1,000 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Information and technology make the difference. Dr. Gulmezoglu told Popline that there is an abundance of reproductive health information available, but not being utilized in Kenya. As a consequence, some 45 percent of Kenyan births last year were either unwanted or unplanned.

Access to information and technology distinguishes the developed world from the undeveloped. That is one reason why the abortion provision in the Omnibus Spending Bill which Congress enacted last weekend was so disappointing. It was a decision to be more ignorant.

The Third World physicians whom one sees quoted in Popline during the year frequently talk about the subjugation of women. In societies where women are denied knowledge, status and property, there is less widespread knowledge about reproductive health and technology. Women in those countries are in situations that were common in 19th century America: They are never free from pregnancy and childbirth.

It is one of the supreme ironies of the 21st century that America's official line has become one of denying information to women, abroad and at home. The provision in the Omnibus Spending Bill tells hospitals and clinics across America that they may not implement a medical practice that is taught in medical schools.

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