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The Importance of Women's Reproductive Freedom

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Fifteen years ago in Beijing, then First Lady Hillary Clinton said, “Women’s rights are human rights.” Today Secretary of State, Clinton is affirming the Obama’s Administration’s support for the International Conference on Population and Development Action Plan. This proclamation is official after eight years of practically no support for women’s reproductive rights, according to Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women.

The International Conference agreement was signed by 179 nations in 1004. It outlined a 20-year strategy for making family planning available by 2015. This was the first time that the global community decided that the empowerment and education of women and girls was extremely necessary in meeting the goals of global population and development. And it was the first time that an international document stated that women have the right to determine their own reproduction.

The Action Plan states, “Ensuring women’s ability to control their own fertility is a cornerstone of population and development-related programmes.”

Ann Firth Murray, president of the Global Fund for Women, said that the Cairo declaration was the first UN document that actually defined women as independent sexual beings, and not just bearers of children. In many ways, family planning has been a big success. The world wide birth rate has been halved from 1950 to 2005. Women view the right to make reproductive choices as a basic human right. Yet there are many who question this right.

At a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) was aggressive in his questioning of Hillary Clinton regarding the Obama administration’s policies on reproductive health including any access to abortion. Clinton replied, “Family planning is an important part of women’s health and reproductive health includes access to abortion that I believe should be safe, legal and rare.”

More than 500,000 women still die annually from preventable injuries related to childbirth. Population Action International states that one in 65 women in the developing world will risk dying from pregnancy or childbirth.

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