How to Restore America’s Position as a Leader on Reproductive Rights


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
backwards.

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.

Make
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.

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.

We
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
ideology.

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.

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  • invalid-0

    What outrageous arrogance!

    The US has never been a leader in the issue of women’s reproductive rights, is not about to become a leader, for all Mr. Obama’s efforts, and probably never will be a leader. Indeed on these matters, the US is the laughing stock of the world, and becomes so at every presidential election.

    No matter what you do to fix this, there is always a crowd in opposition. Every year on the anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, tens of thousands of pro-life protesters demonstrate outside the Supreme Court Building in Washington, trying to overturn it. I believe the Supreme Court made that decision in the reign of RM Nixon, which was quite some years ago.

    Less that half the people of America voted for Obama. This hardly constitutes a ground-up social revolution so desperately needed, and in eight years time you could be faced with somebody who is no different from Bush on these matters.

    At the moment the White House is occupied by a bunch of conservative morons who actually think they have God on their side. All you have to do ask yourself how they got there. In a democracy, the answer is clear….

  • invalid-0

    Woman has always been unequal to man in this country and throughout the world. Gender Equality of Representation in the Congress is a necessary solution to gender inequality, where 50% of the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are women by law.

    Women must have an equal voice in the future of this nation, its families and children.The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, which conferred the equal right to vote for women, has not translated into the equal right to representation.

    http://www.violence.de
    http://violence.ttfuture.org/violence

  • invalid-0

    “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.”

    I fear that in embracing legislation to reduce teen pregnancy Obama will make the mistake of many before him in supporting adoption as an alternative. Prior to Roe at age nineteen and faced with an unplanned pregnancy I was coerced (my family literally abandoned me and my church run agency offered only adoption “counseling”) into carrying that pregnancy to term in seclusion and giving my daughter away. There was no support for keeping her either financial or social. I did not make a ‘plan’ to do this, it was forced upon me and I have suffered incredibly since.