|Obama Administration's Swift Action on Women's Health and Rights Sends Strong Signal|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S SWIFT ACTION
No Global Gag Rule, New HIV/AIDS Leadership, and Support for UNFPA Set Powerful Precedents
January 23, 2009, NEW YORK, NY-Within just three days of the inauguration, the Obama Administration has made clear that achieving national security requires equal attention to human security. Three early actions signal that sexual and reproductive rights and health are fundamental to human security in the new Administration:
"Taken together with President Obama's statement yesterday on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, these actions represent an unprecedented presidential commitment to women everywhere," stated Adrienne Germain, President of the International Women's Health Coalition. "They demonstrate that the Administration knows there will be no peace and security until and unless we secure a just and healthy life for every woman and girl."
Rescinding the Global Gag Rule is a step toward saving the lives of the 70,000 women who die every year in poor countries from unsafe abortions and uncounted thousands who are grievously injured. The Global Gag Rule prohibited foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving U.S. family planning assistance if they used non-U.S. government funds to counsel a woman on her decision about abortion or tell her where she can obtain a safe abortion. The rule also prohibited organizations from participating in positive public discussion about abortion, thus restricting their basic right to freedom of speech.
By signaling the Administration's support for U.S. funding of UNFPA, President Obama will help greatly to reestablish global U.S. leadership on women's health and human rights and our effective membership in the United Nations (UN). The UNFPA is the UN's lead agency for women's health and helps to ensure that women worldwide will have access to contraception; care to prevent and treat sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; and skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth. UNFPA also promotes equality for women and works to end harmful practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
Finally, Secretary Clinton's move towards new leadership of the U.S. government's global AIDS program provides an opportunity to broaden the current HIV prevention approach to meet the real-life needs of people to protect themselves against infection. Research has shown that a limited approach to HIV prevention which emphasizes abstinence-until-marriage and condoms, only for "risky" sex, is ineffective and also irrelevant for the majority of women and girls in poor countries. These women cannot abstain, are already faithful to one partner, and their partners refuse to use condoms. To stop new HIV infections, HIV/AIDS should be approached as a sexual and reproductive health and rights issue, and women must be empowered to protect themselves.
The International Women's Health Coalition leads global and local actions to secure every woman's right to a just and healthy life. We are creating a world where women are free from discrimination, sexual coercion and violence, and have access to health services and information. Visit www.iwhc.org.
To learn more about how the new Administration can reclaim the United States' reputation as a leader on human rights, download A New Agenda for Girls' and Women's Health and Rights, by Adrienne Germain.