Hello, New York Times, Way to Grind My Gears

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Ugh. So just when you think you’re having a nice morning, you read an article that you came across this morning while doing your usual internet browsing about how Japan is behind on OB/GYN care (the article is about that, not that I spend my mornings looking for articles on Japanese OB/GYN care – though I did this morning). While the article does make some important and valid points about the lack of OB/GYNs in Japan, it opens up as citing a low-level of pain relief and genetic testing as proof that OB/GYN care in Japan is lagging behind in OB/GYN care.

But let’s take a look at a few things. First of all, infant mortality. In the article, they compare epidural rates to France and the United States. So for sake of argument, we’ll compare stats with those (where I can find them). So infant mortality in the US is between 6-7 per 1000 live births. In Milwaukee, in 2010 the infant mortality rate was 9.5 per 1000 live births. In France, the infant mortality rate is between 3-4 per 1000 live births. In Japan, the infant mortality rates is between 2-3 per 1000 live births. Hmm, so Japan has a lower infant mortality rate than my hometown, the US, and France (by a bit) but yet, their OB/GYN care is lagging behind the rest of the world.

Well what about maternal mortality you might say? Does Japan have a large number of mothers dying in childbirth? That could make a difference right? In the US, maternal mortality rate is 21 per 100,000. In France, maternal mortality rate is 8 per 100,000. In Japan, the maternal mortality rate is 5 per 100,000. Oh hmm, that’s interesting. Japan has a maternal mortality rate lower than both the US and France, but yet their OB/GYN care is lagging behind the rest of the world.

Well maybe they have a lot of babies born prematurely. That’s worth investigating right? The percent of babies born preterm in the US is 12 percent. France is 6.7 percent of babies. Japan is 5.9 percent of babies. So Japan has a lower rate of premature births. Fascinating.

And okay, why should the rate of epidurals be a determining factor in poor OB/GYN care? They should be available, of course, I’m not against people using them, but they’re not mandatory for birth. You don’t need to have pain meds to have a baby. I had no pain meds, by choice. In fact, I know several people who had no pain meds by choice and even some people who had home births. Not having pain meds does not mean you are receiving substandard OB/GYN care and in a culture that thinks of suffering as not necessarily a bad thing, is it any surprise? Certainly, like I said, they should be available to people who want them, but they are not mandatory to have a baby.

And let me touch on genetic testing. You do not have to have genetic testing to have a baby either. The author of the article clearly thinks that genetic testing is a good thing, but not everyone feels the same way. There are many people who decline genetic testing because they know that no matter what they are going to love and keep that baby. Not to mention, amniocentesis  one of the tests the author mentions, carries risks. Amniocentesis carries a risk of miscarriage between  1 in 200 and 1 in 400 depending on circumstances. Perhaps there are less genetic screenings for these reasons.

And in his last sentence he talks about this lack of quality OB/GYN care being a reason Japan’s birth rate is falling. I find that a little hard to believe. Among The Economist, BBC News, and Japan Economic Currents not one lists poor maternity care as the reason Japan’s birth rate is falling. Instead, they list reasons such as the high cost of weddings, lower marriage rates, companies discouraging women from returning to work after becoming a mother, high unemployment, low wages for young people, social attitudes about family life, and the cost of raising and having children.

Lastly, the article spends the majority of the time talking about an OB/GYN shortage in Japan. This is a real problem, yes, but not one unique to Japan. Several sources predict a coming shortage of OB/GYNs or say one is already here in the United States including T̶h̶e̶ ̶O̶B̶/̶G̶Y̶N̶ ̶N̶u̶r̶s̶e̶-̶N̶P̶/̶P̶A̶, (link now broken as of 2/8/14), Parents.com, ACOG (they say one of their legislative goals is to support federal funding to address OB/GYN shortages)Massachusetts Medical Society, and USA Today.

I think saying that Japan has “poor” OB/GYN care is having the wrong conversation. I think the conversation we ought to be having is about maternity care in the US. But that’s just my opinion.


Wikipedia: List of Countries by Infant Mortality Rate
City of Milwaukee – Infant Mortality
CIA: Country Comparison: Maternal Mortality Rate
WHO data on preterm births by country
American Pregnancy Association – Amniocentesis 


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Women and Islam

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All right, well before I start this post I want to say, I am a practicing Christian (Wisconsin Synod Lutheran in case you’re curious) and I am not a Muslim, nor have I ever been Muslim. That being said, I do have thoughts on the way that Islam treats women.

The issue I am going to focus on today is the veiling of Islamic women. I’m talking about the hijab, the niqab, and burqa.

For brief definitions:
Hijab – “Refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general.” (Wikipedia)
Niqab – “A veil which covers the face, worn by some Muslim women as a part of sartorial hijāb.” (Wikipedia)
Burqa – “An enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies in public places. The burqa is usually understood to be the woman’s loose body-covering (Arabic: jilbāb), plus the head-covering (Arabic: ḥijāb, taking the most usual meaning), plus the face-veil (Arabic: niqāb).” (Wikipedia)

I’m talking about this in light of recent news from France. France has banned the burqa. It went into effect earlier this week. In fact, they’ve already made some arrests.

I want you to watch this video where two Muslim women debate it and then I’ll give you my opinion on it.

While I feel that countries who choose to force women to wear the burqa, niqab, or hijab are wrong and those laws should be overturned, I also feel that nobody should have the right to tell you you can not wear something, especially not if it is something you are doing for religious reasons.

Last week, I attended (and presented) at Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies student conference. One of the sessions I got the chance to attend was called “Do You See More Than My Hijab?” This student had done her research, asking other Muslim women across campus on their feelings on wearing the veil. The speaker talked about how she felt the majority of the time that her veil didn’t bring her any negative effects from people and that men actually respected her more, she felt, when she was wearing it – opening doors for her and such. She was very open with us and allowed us to ask her any questions. She talked about her choice to wear the hijab. I used to feel too that it was oppressive, I used to read Muslim women talking about how it wasn’t, but it wasn’t until I talked to a real person that it convinced me that it wasn’t oppressive to women (where they have a choice).

And you know, even though I would never do it – a lot of it made sense to me. A lot of people have picked on me for wearing what I consider modest clothing because they think my status of modesty is ridiculous. To them (a lot of Muslim women) the hijab, niqab, and burqa are their way of being modest. When it’s done for their choice, I think they should have every right in the world to make that choice. Modesty is so little valued in our world, that when a woman wants to be modest, there is often a lot of backlash against it, like these women are facing.

I think I will end with this quote by a Muslim woman, that sums up my thoughts on this.

If women want to walk around half-naked I don’t object to them doing so. If they want to wear tight jeans where you can see their underwear or walk around with their breasts hanging out, I don’t give a damn. But if they are allowed to do that, why should I not be allowed to cover up? – Source

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