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Villanova to Give Ethics Award to CEO with Contraceptive Connections

Villanova University’s Ethics Program of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences plans to present its seventh annual Praxis Award in Professional Ethics to Jennifer Staple-Clark, CEO of Unite for Sight (UFS). The Villanova announcement says she was selected “for her extraordinary commitment to global health and her efforts in eliminating patient barriers to high-quality eye care.”

What the announcement doesn’t mention is the organization’s distribution of healthcare beyond eye care and potentially problematic connections to reproductive services such as abortion-inducing contraceptives. The Cardinal Newman Society uncovered connections between Unite for Sight and education on, and links to individuals and organizations that distribute “reproductive services.”

According to the University’s announcement:

Staple-Clark’s leadership and vision has evolved into a global health delivery organization that provides care to the world’s poorest people. Unite for Sight has provided eye care to over 1,100,000 people living in poverty, giving eye clinics in developing countries the chance to operate normally as a medical institution. Beyond the borders of the United States, Unite for Sight has merged with partners in Africa and Asia trying to help those communities in need as well. The organization reaches out to patients who cannot afford medical expenses or get access to a clinic.

Through Unite for Sight’s Global Health University, the organization provides various certificates, such as one for maternal and child health. The online module for that certificate includes extensive information on access to contraception.

In a module noting the challenges to delivering contraception, the curriculum says that, “the greatest hindrances to effective contraception in these young, low-income Latinas were ‘concern about side effects, fear of health consequences, and misinformation.’"

Another module notes insufficient access to reproductive health services and contraceptives in refugee camps. Citing a case study from Guinea, it notes that The Reproductive Health Group recruited nurses and midwives from the refugee community and trained them to provide contraceptives. “The group was so successful that it obtained official NGO status in 1996, and it soon became the most effective provider of reproductive health services in Guinea."

In addition, individuals associated with Unite for Sight have written about learning about contraceptives at UFS-sponsored conferences, and distributing contraception to women in developing nations.

Catherine Thomas writes in a blog report about Unite for Sight’s 2011 Global Health & Innovation Conference. There, she learned about new contraceptive technologies such as Sino-Implant (II), “a highly effective and less expensive alternative to similar products…” she writes. “Lasting four years, Sino-Implant (II)/Zarin is $16 less than Jadelle (which lasts 5 years) and $12 less than Implanon (which lasts 4 years),” Thomas writes. “Family planning is essential to achieving many goals in health and development, and more cost-effective methods are always in need.”

Celia Gellman, a Unite for Sight 2009 Global Impact Fellow, writes about her Unite for Sight-sponsored volunteer work in Ghana, where she admits to “working with the Ghanian UFS volunteer coordinator toward two goals: increasing a group of poor rural women’s business profits by expanding to Western markets, and bringing down their fertility rates via sex-education, family planning, and distribution of contraceptives.”

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