Dear Mr. President,
2012 seemed to be the year of the “war on women.” Policies and programs promoting women’s health and rights both domestically and abroad routinely came under attack by U.S. policymakers.
Despite the clear need and demand for increased access to care and services in the developing world – perhaps a time when the need is the highest it has ever been in our movement – the sexual and reproductive health and rights community face broad-based hostility politically. Restrictive policy riders continued to be inserted in legislation and policymakers have increasingly sacrificed women’s health issues – whether domestic or international – to secure gains on other initiatives perceived as having potential to gain broader public support.
At Pathfinder International, we believe that reproductive health is essential for creating better opportunities throughout life. When people take charge of their life choice – such as if, when, and how often to have children – they gain confidence and strength. They can better pursue their education, contribute to the local economy, and engage in their communities.
For these reasons, we ask your Administration to take the following actions during your second term:
- Within the President’s annual budget request, allocate $1 billion for international family planning and reproductive health assistance. This figure represents the appropriate U.S. fair share of total global expenditures necessary to meet the needs of 222 million women in developing countries who wish to prevent pregnancy but are not currently using contraception.
- Endorse full legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule.
- End the overly broad enforcement of the Helms Amendment, and clarify that the amendment allows for the use of foreign assistance funds for abortions provided in the cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of a woman.
- Expand and strengthen HIV and family planning integration by allowing funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to pay for contraceptive commodities where effective referrals are not feasible.
Time and time again, both you and your Administration stood firm in support of women’s health and rights during your first term. It is of tantamount importance that you continue to protect these rights in your second term, and that your Administration takes action to ensure that strides are made in support of those rights in the years to come.
By Pathfinder International. This article was originally published January 16 on Pathfinder's blog, and is also included in InterAction's series of guest opinions by NGO leaders on ways to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective.