December 2009 — Volume 5
Happy Holidays! Though it's gotten cold in NY and DC, the health care reform debate is as heated as ever. Planned Parenthood is working around the clock to ensure that any measures that would further restrict access to abortion services in the U.S. — in a way we haven't seen since Roe v. Wade — will not be part of our health care bill. Those of us in PPFA's International Program know all too well what such restrictions might mean.
Working in developing countries such as Guatemala, the Philippines, and Kenya, where abortion access is limited and stigmatized, we have seen a stark reality. As the Guttmacher Institute reported this fall, evidence from around the world shows that restricting abortion access doesn't reduce the incidence of abortion but simply makes the practice more dangerous for women. While the situation in the U.S. is not as extreme as many of the places we work around the world, the issues are the same. When women's rights and health are at stake due to policies that are shortsighted and ideology-driven, we must all stand together. Let's continue to ensure that women's rights are protected in the U.S. and worldwide this holiday season. Please read on for some recent highlights of our international work.
Warm wishes for a healthy holiday season!
Vice President of International Programs
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Congresswoman Nita Lowey Is an International Family Planning Hero!
One woman who understands the importance of women's rights in the U.S. and around the globe is our heroine — and Democratic Representative from NY — Nita Lowey. Earlier this month PPFA, along with Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic (Rep. Lowey's home district Planned Parenthood affiliate), and the United Nations Foundation were proud to honor her with the International Family Planning Hero award at an event in Rye, New York. With more than 110 constituents, Planned Parenthood supporters, state and local officials and guests present, Rep. Lowey accepted the award for her untiring support of global reproductive health during her more than 20 years in Congress. Rep. Lowey was honored by PPFA President Cecile Richards, and Susana Chávez, director of our Peruvian partner PROMSEX, among others.
As chairwoman of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Lowey has helped to ensure that the U.S. will be a leader on global women's health issues. Under her tenure, we've seen federal funding for international family planning grow, and this year's budget includes $648 million for global family planning, an all-time high! Her support has meant that women everywhere have been better able to realize their reproductive rights and, ultimately, their potential. Rep. Lowey spoke eloquently about how her work to ensure family planning access for millions of women around the world comes from the same place as her work to prevent abortion restrictions in U.S. health care reform: the belief that reproductive rights are human rights!
Historic Meeting on Reproductive Rights in Latin America
In November, more than 350 leaders from all over Latin America came together in Arequipa, Peru, for the first-ever Latin American Legal Congress on Reproductive Rights. PPFA, along with our partner PROMSEX, a courageous reproductive rights advocacy group in Peru, and our friends at the Peruvian bar associations worked together to organize this historic event. The conference attracted some key decision makers from the legal community (judges, legislators, deans of the bar associations, law professors), as well as law students and activists.
Those who spoke were regional, national, and international reproductive rights and legal experts (including PPFA staff), whose gathering in one place was truly groundbreaking. It was the first time there was such a forum, enabling open and rigorous discussion of pressing reproductive rights issues in Latin America, and the examination of these issues within a human rights framework. Some key immediate results of the conference include commitment from several high-level representatives from various Latin American countries to begin integrating human rights work with that of reproductive rights, wide media exposure on these issues, and new relationships with key PPFA staff who work on these issues. This is particularly timely given the threats to access to emergency contraception and legal, therapeutic abortion in countries throughout the region.
Pioneering in the Sudan, Spreading the Word
We're proud to announce the publication of a PPFA-authored article, "Unsafe Abortion and Abortion Care in Khartoum, Sudan," in the November 2009 issue of Reproductive Health Matters. You can read the abstract here. The article is an important addition to a small range of published information about reproductive health and rights in Sudan, and presents findings on reproductive health policy in Sudan and the dangers of unsafe abortion there. Based on our decades of work in Sudan to address one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Africa, the article paints a picture of reproductive health within a context of civil strife, poverty, and the low status of women.
In a country where an estimated 4.9 million have been displaced, reproductive health issues — unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, STIs including HIV/AIDS, safe labor and delivery — have become life and death issues. PPFA works with groundbreaking community health organizations in Sudan to provide needed services, raise awareness of reproductive health, and work strategically with the Ministry of Health to develop policies that promote women's rights and health. We have a dedicated team of Sudanese staff based in Khartoum who are truly making inroads in the state of reproductive health there. In the coming year, we'll begin a new project in Darfur to address the effects of gender-based violence and unintended pregnancy among women in camps for those who are internally displaced.
© 2009 Planned Parenthood® Federation of America, Inc. All rights reserved.
Learn more about PPFA's international work here or support our programs worldwide!