[Editor's note: In celebration of the fact that The Dismal Political Economist actually has a post which is positive and laudatory of public officials this will be the only post today. A complimentary post like this is such a rare event that it should be savored by itself.]
In Britain the persona of the Conservative Party, which now controls the government is still one of Margaret Thatcher. Ms. Thatcher seemed to come across as a rather mean spirited person, one who took particular delight in removing government support for the most vulnerable citizens on the theory that the young, the ill, the disabled and the elderly needed to get along on their own without the collective help of society.
The current leader of the Conservative Party, and hence Prime Minister is David Cameron. Mr. Cameron styles himself as a new kind of Conservative, one devoted to environmental and social issues. Unfortunately he has handed off his economic policy to George Osborne, the old type of Conservative who has focused solely on reducing the deficit, and who has implemented policies whose most significant result is sending the economy into recession.
But on his own Mr. Cameron has exhibited traits of a desirable type of Conservative. He supports changing the outdated House of Lords to a Senate like body where, gasp, members are actually elected rather than serve by heredity. And he supports gay marriage, on the rather logical conservative grounds that government should not be involved in people’s private lives.
And in a rather remarkable position, Mr. Cameron has come out very strongly for providing women in developing nations with family planning services. At a meeting in
London co-sponsored by the Gates Foundation Mr.
Cameron was downright eloquent in support for allowing women to control
their own bodies and their own lives.
David Cameron was given a standing ovation after announcing
is doubling its financial
support for family planning services to £1bn over the next eight years, but was
immediately asked how he would tackle religious opposition to the efforts. Britain
contribution would save the life of a woman or girl in the developing world
every two hours for the next eight years by preventing deaths caused by too
many pregnancies, too close together. Britain
This is powerful stuff, as there are many forces arrayed against Mr. Cameron on this issue. But instead of using the typical weasel words of politicians, Mr. Cameron made an unconditional statement of his position
Mr Cameron said: "When a woman is prevented from choosing when to have children it is not just a violation of her human rights it can fundamentally compromise her chances in life and the opportunities for her children.
"Family planning works not just because smaller families can be healthier and wealthier but because empowering women is the key to growing economies and healthy open societies."
Mr Cameron added: "We're not talking about some kind of Western imposed population control, forced abortion or sterilisation.
"What we're saying today is quite the opposite. We're not telling anyone what to do. We're giving women and girls the power to decide for themselves."
and in doing so he provided the words and logic for every person who supports basic human rights.
Equal praise must also go to Melinda Gates, wife of Bill and a prime mover in the cause to provide every woman in the world with a basic right. The Gates Foundation is putting more than $500 million towards the cause, and Ms. Gates was equally eloquent in her defense of her position.
“I believe in not letting women die, I believe in not letting babies die, and to me that’s more important than arguing about what method of contraception [is right].”
And for those politicians in this country, who cravenly use the attempts to provide women with access to family planning as a method to invoke a phony ‘war on religious freedom’ or anti catholic bias, there is this to be said about Melinda Gates.
A life-long Catholic, Mrs Gates said she had grappled with her faith before deciding to speak out against the
’s opposition to
“Of course I wrestled with this. As a Catholic I believe in this religion, there are amazing things about this religion, amazing moral teachings that I do believe in, but I also have to think about how we keep women alive,” she said in an interview in advance of the summit.
Yes, powerful stuff, but then it has to be in order to fight those who would impose their own religious or moral beliefs on women, to the detriment of the health and lives of those women.