Despite two decades of efforts, more than half a million women die each year while pregnant or from complications after childbirth, the Guardian reported. While overall abortion rates have dropped and contraceptive use has increased, Africa and parts of Asia are bucking those trends. Some experts blame the Bush administration, whose HIV/AIDS prevention policies in those regions promote abstinence over birth control.
Later this month, a London conference will address the research and the estimated $15 billion economic toll from women’s lost productivity. Access to contraception would cut deaths by a third, researchers said, while skilled birth attendants and access to emergency obstetrical care could reduce the death rate by 75 percent, particularly in developing countries.