Empoweringwomen key to population control

At last the United Nations world population conference is over.

What seemed like interminable debate on population management policy was mostly overshadowed by the hoop-la over abortion.

It seems fairly evident to me, at least, that abortion should not have been the primary focal point of this conference. Leaders from across the globe traveled to Cairo to discuss the world's booming population a problem that affects everyone.

So what was the big stink about abortion? The Vatican and Muslim leaders voiced their concerns over abortion, saying that it is so abhorrent to their respective faiths that they would not participate in anything that advocated abortion.

That's fine. I don't agree with their position on abortion, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But the problem came when this topic overshadowed the spirit of the meeting.

This was not the time to argue over ideology or theology. This was the time to brainstorm solutions to a serious global problem.

Granted, abortion is a facet of population management. Not as a solution or method of birth control, but in the larger scope of women's health and education.

It seems so simple: empower, educate and provide access to health care, and people will be able to make educated choices about reproduction instead of dealing with the children the hands of fate deals them.

Empowering women, as well as men, is not an easy thing. It goes against many cultural norms for society to place faith in women's intelligence. It is easy for Americans to sit back and think that overt oppression of women only happens in strange, far-away places, that only people with religions different from our Judeo-Christian basis are like "that," but it is not true.

Repression of women comes in many forms, all over the world from next door to the opposite ends of the globe. It is also religion-blind. The Vatican's strong anti-choice stance on the abortion uproar at the population conference is proof of that.

It seemed like an uneasy marriage between two powerful religious groups, disagreeing on basic tenets of philosophy, but agreeing that giving women control of their reproductive choices is a sin.

Education is an obvious part of population management. Not only book-type education, but knowledge about birth control, abstinence, hygeine, pre-natal and parenting care are all paramount in this fight.

Helping women better themselves through education is a sensible idea. It is logical to think that better education leads to better jobs and life choices. This progression relies a lot on economic development and job availabilty, two things the more developed nations can assist with if they choose to. Not in a pity mission, but by realizing that no one is here alone.

Health care is another necessity. Instead of shoving theology down people's throats, the authorities government and religious need to face facts and realize that good intentions don't always result in actions at large. For instance, abstinence is a good idea, but practically impossible as a policy.

Sex will happen, whether a religion likes it or not.

Abortion is not a method of birth control, but is a choice a woman must have in order to possess control over her body. This does not mean that she must select this choice, but it must be available.

An important point to this whole debate is that being pro-choice does not equal being pro-abortion. A person could be vehemently against abortion as an option, but still be pro-choice.

But if the option is not even a possibility, someone else is making the choice.

It is important to realize that everyone in a community, no matter how large or small, affects others around them. Attention and funding to women's education, health care and empowerment will not stop with women, if only because so many women serve in caretaker roles, as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

These are the broader issues facing the UN conference that needed deeper probing. It is evident that some factions will never agree on certain issues like abortion or birth control, but that must not continue as an obstacle to solutions to overpopulation or anything else.

Sarah Garrecht is editor in chief of the Wildcat and a journalism senior. She is glad her parents chose to have her.

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