With the election of Barack Obama, women around the world can heave
a collective sigh of relief and look forward to an end to the Bush
administration’s relentless assault on women’s reproductive health and
rights. It’s been a very long and destructive eight years. While the
rest of the world has been moving forward in a growing recognition of
reproductive rights as human rights, the United States has moved
In the past two years, the United States Supreme Court — with two new Bush justices — issued Gonzales v. Carhart
, a decision that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called "alarming," which
she said represented antiquated and rejected notions of a woman’s place
in the family. At the same time, the Constitutional Court in Colombia
said that protecting reproductive rights is a direct path to promoting
the dignity of all human beings.
We need to get back on that
direct path. Under the leadership of President-elect Obama, the United
States has the opportunity to again take the world stage as a leader in
promoting women’s reproductive health, equality and human rights.
no mistake, our country’s new vision for reproductive rights and health
needs to go further than simply undoing the policies of the previous
administration. The Obama administration must work toward a nation and
world in which all women are free to decide whether and when to have
children, where all women have access to quality reproductive health
care, where all women can exercise their choices without coercion or
discrimination, and where all women can participate with full dignity
as equal members of society.
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President-elect Obama is a strong
supporter of reproductive rights and understands the values that
underscore them – human dignity, self-determination, equality and
non-discrimination. These principles are embodied in the United States
Constitution, one of the world’s earliest human rights documents, as
well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He also understands,
however, that the mere recognition of rights is not enough: they must
improve the lives and health of women.
Access to comprehensive
information, contraception, abortion and prenatal care are critical. To
take just one example, we cannot meaningfully address the high rates of
adolescent pregnancy in this country while at the same time denying
comprehensive sexuality education and supporting ineffective
abstinence-only programs. In order for this country to reduce high
rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and
maternal mortality, and to eliminate the shameful racial disparities in
reproductive health, we must recognize a broader vision, guided by
human rights principles, grounded in science and not ideology and
reflecting the understanding that access to reproductive health care
will improve the lives of women and families.
urge President-Elect Obama to lead the nation toward that vision,
beginning with three positive changes that cry out for immediate action.
Create a policy climate guided by science and not ideology: Strike
funding for abstinence-only sex education and appoint federal agency
directors — beginning with the FDA — who respect scientific data.
Appoint federal judges committed to constitutional rights and the objective review of evidence: This
begins with the U.S. Supreme Court, whose decision last year upholding
the federal abortion ban ignored finding of fact made by lower courts
and based on sound medical evidence, and deferred to Congressional
Support reproductive rights at the U.N. and in U.S. foreign assistance programs: Repeal
the Global Gag Rule and restore funding to the United Nations
Population Fund. Ensure that our nation is represented around the world
by people who respect women’s human rights.
The United States can
once again become a leader in supporting reproductive rights and
ensuring access to this critical health care. It’s not only change we
can believe in, it’s change we must demand. Our daughters and
granddaughters’ futures depend on it.
This post previously appeared on Alternet.