Our March cover story is now online: “The politics of maternal health and child mortality.” It begins:

The numbers are staggering. A half-million women die during pregnancy every year. Nine million children in the developing world will die before their fifth birthday. That’s one pregnant mother and 18 children every minute of every day of the year will die prematurely, unnecessarily. Their dire circumstances cry out for redress, but thus far, the plight of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable has been met merely with rhetoric.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to provide safe deliveries, clean water, inoculations and nutrition programs. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff wants to provide abortion. At Full Comment, Jean Chamberlain Froese has an excellent and vivid article on what women genuinely need: obstetric care. Why?

I’ve come to the village, in fact, for other things: to bring a Canadian television journalist, and to visit a local political leader who’s one of my students. Little did I realize we’d walk into a funeral. This is how common death is in this East African nation where an estimated 6,000 mothers die in childbirth every year.

The cause? Lack of skilled attendants and emergency care. More often than not, if mothers do arrive at a care facility, they’re already half dead. In Sufayati’s case, she arrived at a local clinic virtually gasping her last breaths. Nobody was surprised when she bled to death soon after. It takes about four hours for a mother to bleed to death after delivery. But when you deliver at home and live two hours from the nearest clinic, time is not in your favour.

Michael Ignatieff says these women need “safe abortion” while Stephen Harper says they need safe deliveries. The conclusion of my Interim article puts this in perspective:

Still, this whole ordeal tells us a lot about Michael Ignatieff: either he is willing to hold the health and lives of women and children in the developing world hostage for domestic political reasons or he genuinely thinks abortion is a central component of maternal and infant health. Which is worse will be left for readers to decide, now and during the next federal election.