Today is the 101st International Women’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate the social and economic progress of women around the world. Unfortunately, this year does not give us much cause to celebrate. Both at home and abroad, the reproductive health and rights of women has been under unprecedented assault, imperiling many of the gains that have been made over the past 101 years. Hard- fought gains that we have long taken for granted are in jeopardy. Looking back over the past year I don’t see a cause for celebration. I see an escalating attack on the health and well-being of women.
Domestically, we have seen innumerable attacks on the reproductive health and rights of women:
- The U.S. House of Representatives voted last year to eliminate Title X, which provides low-income women with access to family planning. The move would have forced the closure of hundreds of family planning clinics delivering life-saving preventive healthcare services.
- A measure introduced the House of Representatives would have redefined rape. Current law permits funding of abortions in the case of rape. Social conservatives, tried, but failed, to narrow the definition of abortions to cases involving “forcible rape.”
- The House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide an emergency abortion, even to a woman who would die without it.
- The Senate nearly passed the Blunt Amendment. While aimed at exempting religious institutions from having to cover contraception as part of their health insurance policy, the bill would have allowed any employer or insurance company to refuse coverage for any activity to which they claim a religious or moral objection.
- Today, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA), which would make it illegal for anyone but a parent to accompany a young woman across state lines to seek an abortion — even if her parents are absent or abusive.
- States enacted a record number of abortion-related restrictions were enacted in states this year. There were 92 abortion-related restrictions passed in 24 states in 2011.
- South Dakota passed a law, which has since been blocked, that would require a three-day waiting period before getting an abortion and force women to go to a crisis pregnancy center to be counseled on assistance available “to help the mother keep and care for her child.”
- Texas passed a bill that would require any woman seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound. Since most women getting an abortion do so in the first trimester, women seeking an abortion would be required to get an invasive transvaginal ultrasound. Alabama, Kentucky, Rhode Island, and Mississippi are also considering Texas-style legislation.
This, of course, is just a sampling of the escalating attacks on the reproductive health and rights of women in the U.S. But the war on women is a global fight. In Congress, the same opponents of contraception in the U.S. are trying to slash funding for international family planning programs. They are also trying to eliminate U.S. support for the UN Population Fund and reinstate the global gag rule, a policy that hinders women in developing countries from getting access to contraception.
With the war on women showing no signs of abating, it is imperative that women stand together with women around the world in fighting for their reproductive health and rights. But men also need to get off of the sidelines. Working together, as men and women, we can put an end to this continuing war on women. Next year, perhaps, we will have something to really celebrate on International Women’s Day.
Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager