Believe it or not, we’re all pro-choice. Yes, even Stupak, even Bush, and even the thousands that participate in the annual Walk for Life in San Francisco on January 22. Americans love choice. Whether it’s picking out our preferred brand of shampoo, deciding what to order at a restaurant, or choosing exactly how we spend our paycheck, there is no denying that we love having the power to choose.
As an American, it goes without saying that I am pro-choice. In my case I actually do support a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion but like everyone else, I also relish the opportunity to make my own choices every single day. Just this morning I chose to stay in bed an extra fifteen minutes even thought I knew it might make me late for work. I also carefully chose the clothes I was going to wear today. And, somewhat reluctantly, I chose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. I made each of these choices because I believed that in some way they would make me happy or help me succeed or even improve my quality of life.
Everyone, no matter where they live, should have the opportunity to make those kinds of choices. In many developing countries, women’s choices, not only about their bodies but also about their lives, are taken out of their hands. Their path for the future is determined by their parents and their husband and ultimately by society.
In many cultures, women are pressured, often at a very young age, to marry a man and start bearing his children right away. Her worth as a wife is determined by the number of children she has—the more the better. These numerous and frequent births do not allow the young women’s bodies to fully recover and rejuvenate before the next pregnancy which can lead to serious health problems and greatly increases the risk of experiencing complications during subsequent pregnancies and births. If a woman does not comply with these traditional standards she is looked down upon and can even become an outcast of society. When a woman is not provided with access to contraceptives and information about family planning, her health, her rights, and even her life is threatened.
The good news is there are Americans who are using their power to choose to help those who cannot. Last month, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and 17 co-sponsors introduced the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act of 2010. This piece of legislation seeks to strengthen and expand the U.S. government’s current program on international family planning and reproductive health by promoting voluntary family planning, reduction of unsafe abortion, STI and HIV prevention, abandonment of harmful traditional practices, engagement of men and boys, contraceptive development, training for health care professionals, and more. With this act, Congresswoman Clarke and her supporters are choosing to stand up for women whose voices have been stifled and whose rights have been marginalized.
While this legislation is a tremendous step toward improving the quality and availability of sexual and reproductive health services worldwide, more must be done to bring these issues into the consciousness of US policy makers. Pathfinder International, a nonprofit organization committed to ensuring that all people have access to quality reproductive health services and information, has partnered with ten other organizations to create a petition asking Congress to increase funding for sexual and reproductive health services as well as maternal and newborn health care in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.
Now is your chance to choose to make a difference by signing the petition. Being pro-choice isn’t just about abortions—it’s also about healthy moms, healthy babies, loving families, vibrant sustainable communities, empowering women, educating children, and more!
This petition is just the beginning, but if we all choose to work together to make a difference, we can truly change the lives of those who do not have the ability to make their own choices.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to eMagazine: Maternal Health .