Real conversation about the status of women must include abortion.
TODAY the White House is sponsoring a United State of Women Summit to “celebrate the progress we’ve made on behalf of women and girls and to talk about how we’re taking action moving forward.” Abortion is not an explicit priority of the summit.
This is a mistake.
Access to abortion is critical for women’s dignity, equality, and justice. A woman needs to be able to decide whether and when to have children to be equal and have equal opportunity. It is really that simple.
It is time for the crisis in access to abortion to be addressed openly – there is little left to lose. It is time to let go of the shame and stigma that have been manufactured to keep women down.
On this historic day for women, we are asking President Obama to follow through on his commitment to equality by standing up for the hundreds of thousands of women raped in conflict around the world.
With the stroke of a pen, President Obama can clarify that the Helms Amendment allows U.S. foreign assistance to fund abortions in the cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. It is the right thing to do, and the right time to do it – before the clock runs short on the otherwise bold, final days of his presidency.
We make this request for achievable, life-saving change on Helms with clear eyes and full hearts. We have grown weary of years of excuses and silence. Women would benefit greatly if President Obama took leadership to break barriers to abortion.
The problem is not just global, but local:
ACCESS to abortion is at a historic low point in the U.S. Since 2011, anti-abortion politicians have passed more than 325 state laws that close clinics and shame, pressure, and punish women who seek abortion care. For many women, abortion has become practically impossible to obtain in a medical setting.
FOR women struggling to make ends meet, paying for abortion has too often meant cutting back on groceries or falling behind on rent. For 40 years, Congress has denied abortion coverage from those qualified and enrolled in the Medicaid health insurance program.
WOMEN who try to end their own pregnancies are being put in jail, especially poor women and women of color. One woman is currently serving 20 years in an Indiana prison. Others have been handcuffed and charged, from Georgia to Pennsylvania, Tennessee to Utah, and beyond.
THE biggest abortion access case in a generation currently sits at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is expected to release a decision soon in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which considers the Texas law that has forced dozens of abortion clinics to close for no medical reason.
The challenges are great, and addressing them requires leadership.
In the spirit of generations of women leaders who have insisted on their right to be equal, who have marched, picketed, gone on hunger strikes, and even chained themselves to the White House fence, we are reminded of our right to expect that leadership today.
There is no more time for stonewalling. Women raped in conflict have been denied access to abortion, and President Obama can do something about it now. It is long overdue for U.S. foreign assistance to provide comprehensive post-rape care – including safe abortions – for women and girls raped in conflict.
On this day of the United State of Women Summit, we are openly, respectfully asking for more. Candidate Barack Obama used to tell one of his favorite stories about FDR, when that president told activists, “Make me do it.” Here we are.
President Obama, we know you can lead on abortion. We know you can stand with women and girls raped in conflict. We pledge to stand by you when you do. What are you waiting for?