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Health Has No Borders

March 8, 2012

Today is International Women’s Day, a day set aside to focus on women’s social and economic advancement globally.  All around the world, women’s health and rights have greatly advanced in the last century – particularly in reproductive and sexual health and rights.  Yet lately, there seem to be an increasing number of examples of misogyny, and attempts to roll back the many rights our foremothers fought so hard to achieve.

Honduras is one of 68 countries where abortion is either prohibited altogether, or only allowed to save a woman’s life.  (See world map of abortion laws.)  Last month, the Honduras Supreme Court upheld a decision outlawing emergency contraception, reasoning that it’s the same thing as abortion.  Today, any woman or doctor found using or distributing the “morning-after pill” in that country could face criminal prosecution and jail time.  

As the name clearly states, 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.  Unfortunately, I’ve known for years that opponents of legal abortion also want to end access to safe and effective forms of contraception.  In other words, they not only want to bar women’s access to the safest forms of abortion, 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. 

Those of us who work in public health know firsthand the consequences of denying women access to birth control.  The picture is grim, but there is a solution – funding programs to support family planning.  I’ll let Connie Britton explain, because she does it very simply and clearly on Planned Parenthood Global’s behalf:

The president’s recent budget request to Congress stays true to these ideals and protects funding for family planning programs at home and abroad.  Let your member of Congress know how vital it is to fund family planning internationally.  Sign our petition here

Maybe on a future International Women’s Day, we can celebrate our success, rather than listen to Presidential candidates, their supporters, and members of Congress attempt to dismantle it.  Better access to family planning is the legacy we should be supporting at home and exporting.

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