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Reproductive Rights – What Exactly Does it Mean?

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Reproductive System related image Photo: Getty Images

Unless you’ve been hiding out for awhile, almost everyone has heard something about reproductive rights or women’s reproductive rights. This subject has been a hotbed issue for awhile and is constantly being interpreted and changed. But by whom?

Good question. Human rights of all sorts are strategized first. That can mean that before becoming law or changing the current laws, different international conferences and committees such as the ones held in the 1990s by the United Nations, the International Conference of Population and Development by the Cairo Consensus or the Beijing Conference, focus on clarifying and endorsing rights which may be internationally adhered to.

So what do reproductive rights include? The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) described these rights as, “Attaining the goals of sustainable, equitable development requires that individuals are able to exercise control over their sexual and reproductive lives.” UNFPA then listed in detail what that may include:

1. Reproductive health as a component of overall health, throughout the life cycle, for both men and women.
2. Reproductive decision-making, including voluntary choice in marriage, family formation and determination of the number, timing and spacing of one's children and the right to have access to the information and means needed to exercise voluntary choice.
3. Equality and equity for men and women, to enable individuals to make free and informed choices in all spheres of life, free from discrimination based on gender.
4. Sexual and reproductive security, including freedom from sexual violence and coercion, and the right to privacy.

Agencies such as UNFPA and the Center for Reproductive Rights make it their mission to ensure that women’s reproductive rights are not ignored or trampled on. In industrialized and developed countries, we may sometimes take for granted our options and freedoms. But in other areas, they are not so fortunate. But then, it is important to remember that at one time in history we were not so fortunate either.

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