Today is International Women’s Day, a day to focus on women’s social and economic advancement. In our country and around the world, women’s health and rights have greatly advanced in the last century. Yet lately, there seem to be an increasing number of examples of that success slipping away.
Last month in Honduras, the Supreme Court upheld a decision outlawing emergency contraception. Today, any woman or doctor found using or distributing the “morning-after” pill in that country could face criminal prosecution and jail time. The law equates emergency contraception with abortion, which is barred except in life-threatening cases and even then legally restricted. As the name suggests, emergency contraception is not abortion. It is a form of contraception. This latest ruling in Honduras, however, reflects a larger global trend of opponents of legal abortion now going after birth control.
Sound familiar? It should. This messaging is an American export.
The global debate clearly echoes the regressive conversation taking place at home. Recent deliberation over health insurance coverage of contraception without co-pays has revealed the extreme positions held by some members of Congress. Opponents of legal abortion would like to bar women’s access not only to the procedure, but to the most effective means of preventing it. And these same opponents of birth control coverage for American women routinely propose slashing U.S. foreign aid for international family planning programs.The United States must support robust investments for family planning programs at home and abroad.
Politics should not stand in the way of women’s access to family planning anywhere in the world.
Those of us who work in public health know firsthand the consequences of denying women access to birth control. The picture is grim.
Globally, 215 million women want to plan or space their births but lack access to modern contraception. Virtually all of these women live in developing countries. Evidence shows that when women can’t access contraception, they experience high rates of unintended pregnancy, which leads to high rates of unsafe abortion, pregnancy complications, and maternal deaths. Evidence also shows that fewer women die from pregnancy-related causes in countries with strong, publicly funded family planning programs.
Here in the U.S., we are lucky to live in a country with public support for family planning. The vast majority women who need it have access to modern contraception.
The president’s recent budget request to Congress stays true to these ideals and protects funding for family planning programs at home and abroad. Time will tell if Congress chooses to honor these requests in the final budget. On International Women’s Day, we should be celebrating our success, not trying to dismantle it. Better access to family planning is the legacy we should be exporting. When women and their families have access to family planning, unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortions, and maternal death all decline.
Access to health care should not be determined by where you live. Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country and our partners around the world are dedicated to ensuring access to quality health care services for women and their families everywhere.
Check out this new video: Health Has No Borders.
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