A new report by the World Health Organization estimates that the maternal mortality rate dropped by one-third worldwide between 1990 and 2008. Although it's hard to quantify the exact reasons, there are a number of factors that likely helped bring about the decrease: the report specifically cites improvement in health systems, improved education for females, more births being attended by skilled health-care personnel, more women receiving prenatal care, and an increase in availability and use of contraception. Though this is a significant and welcome development, there is still a long way to go. An estimated 358,000 women died of pregnancy-related causes in 2008, 87% of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. A 15-year-old girl in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 31 chance of eventually dying from a maternal cause.
Only two-thirds of U.S. teens receive sex education that includes information on birth control, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control. About 97% of teens interviewed for the National Survey of Family Growth said they received formal sex education by age 18. Formal sex education was defined as instruction at a school, church, community center or other setting that dealt with saying no to sex, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, or birth control. Of all of the teens interviewed, 62% of boys and 70% of girls had received instruction about methods of contraception. Teens were even less likely to talk to their parents about birth control: 31% of boys and 51% of girls reported talking to their parents about methods of contraception, and only 20% of boys and 38% of girls talked to their parents about how to obtain it.
Last week, I was interviewed for the Point of Inquiry podcast about atheist opposition to abortion. The interview should be posted online today. I'm very grateful to Bob Price and the Center for Inquiry for the opportunity to discuss a viewpoint that is not often heard in either anti-abortion or skeptical circles — the secular, pro-balance, pro-reproductive-peace position.