Chapters 8–10 Summary
American abortion politics, deeply rooted in religion, affect family planning decisions made well beyond domestic borders. The ideological combatants, “secular liberals” and “conservative Christians,” disagree primarily on the contraceptive methods that should be made available to women of childbearing age. This partisan “God Gulf” extends from sex education in schools to the funding of women’s health clinics in some of the poorest, most “marginalized” regions of the world.
Kristof and WuDunn personify the issue in twenty-six-year-old Rose Wanjera, a Kenyan mother who received a prenatal checkup from a refugee clinic supported by Marie Stopes International. Rose was “sick and penniless,” and as she waited to see a doctor, she told the authors that her husband had recently been mauled to death by a pack of wild dogs.
Upon examination, the doctor diagnosed a life-threatening infection and enrolled Rose in an ongoing care program. But she never received the prenatal or intrapartum care she was promised. George W. Bush soon chose to eliminate the funding to Marie Stopes because the foundation had been providing safe abortion services to women in China. As punishment, the entire women’s health consortium lost financial support, and the doctors and nurses who worked in critical care areas—including Rose’s—were laid off.
The authors present statistics showing the efficacy of internationally sponsored women’s health programs throughout the developing world. Contrary to promoting the use of abortion as a primary method of population control, aid organizations like the United Nations family planning division have been able to prevent millions of abortions by advocating for universal contraceptive use among people who wish to avoid unintended pregnancies.
Although there may be “an element of truth” to the conservative, abstinence-only argument that “[making] sex safer also makes it more likely,” teaching young people to use condoms is imperative in the global fight against AIDS. Kristof and WuDunn argue that there should be a bipartisan effort to support programs and methods proven to reduce HIV transmission, including abstinence, condoms, male circumcision, and free screening and treatment for STDs.
In this chapter, Kristof and WuDunn explore whether Islam is inherently misogynistic. “A politically incorrect point must be noted here,” they write, before going on to explain that women are subjected to “systematic abuses,” including honor killing and genital mutilation, far more frequently in countries with “predominantly Muslim” populations. They cite opinion polls that suggest “Muslims in some countries just don’t believe in equality,” as evidenced by their broad support for burkas, polygamy, and dependent roles for women. They counter the argument that it is the culture, not the religion, that has supported a “deeply repressive” attitude, noting that misogyny is often “justified” by quoting the Prophet Muhammad.
Nevertheless, the authors do not believe that Islam is historically misogynistic. Despite myriad examples of human rights violations, there are also many examples of women who are challenging misogynistic attitudes, albeit with varying degrees of success. The authors interview two women at different ends of the spectrum.
Ellaha is an Afghan teenager who is serving an interminable sentence at the Women’s Detention Center in Kabul. She explains that after being raised as a refugee in Iran, where she graduated from high school and had started university, she found it difficult to accept the “rigid Afghan customs” upon her family’s return to Afghanistan. After “[impressing] the managers” of the American construction company where she worked, she was offered a scholarship to a Canadian university, but her family insisted that she remain in Afghanistan and marry her cousin. She tried to run away but was caught, subjected to a “virginity...
(The entire section is 923 words.)