DC Rally for Women’s Health Emphasizes Autonomy, Agency for Women and Girls

“We decide! We decide! We decide!” the four thousand supporters chatted in unison around me in front of the Capitol Building at the Rally for Women’s Health in Washington DC yesterday.  We were advocating for the women’s health funds that could be jeopardized in current U.S. budget negotiations (like Title X, which is responsible for funding family planning).

Professor of International Health and Co-Founder of the Gapminder Foundation Hans Rosling agrees: we DO decide. And those decisions are often made in the bedroom.

“The world is run from the bedrooms.” Rosling explains.  The ability to refuse unwanted sex, negotiate condom use or facilitate protection from unwanted pregnancy and STIs, including HIV, is crucial to the health and well being of women, young people, and communities, in the United States and the world over.

Data backs up this assertion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, women’s health initiatives like the Title X funding that provides family planning and prevention services across the United States, can actually help boost the national economy by helping women avoid unintended pregnancies and promoting their health and wellbeing.

Yet, counter-intuitively, these initiatives are still under attack and at risk of being de-funded based on a misguided argument for fiscal responsibility.

According to National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) President Nancy Keegan, this logical fallacy is driven by a desire to control women’s actions and decision-making process in the bedroom.

Yesterday she told the crowd that those that oppose funding for family planning and other sexual and reproductive rights and health services do so because they “want a government that’s small enough to fit in your bedroom and medicine cabinet.”

As if this weren’t enough, the attacks aren’t limited to the US. The proposed cuts extend beyond this country, and to the health and human rights of countless women and young people on every continent.

Among the harmful restrictions in the House-passed FY 11 funding bill is an effort to enact into law the Global Gag Rule, a policy that bars organizations receiving U.S. funding to provide family planning services if they also use their own, non-U.S. funds to provide legal abortion services, advocate for abortion law reform, or provide accurate medical counseling or referrals.

So, the government needs to give Americans and non-Americans alike the information and resources they need to make decisions about what happens in the bedroom.  And once that bedroom door is shut, the government shouldn’t try to open it.



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