12 December 2011

Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights

Saturday was Human Rights Day, an opportunity for us to reflect on the most basic of human rights – reproductive rights. The ability to control what happens to our bodies entails more than just domain over who may touch our bodies and when. Human rights, by their very nature, dictate that women have complete control over their own fertility.

Unfortunately, this year’s acknowledgement of Human Rights Day follows the announcement that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius torpedoed the FDA’s decision to lift the age restrictions on Plan-B One Step.

Despite scientific evidence in favor of lifting the restrictions, young women 16 and younger will continue to need a prescription to purchase emergency contraception. Many will not get the prescription, because their primary care physician is closed on the weekend. Or because they don’t have a doctor at all. Or because it’s not safe for them to admit to their parents that they are sexually active. Their pregnancies will be among the 50 percent that are unplanned.

It’s an unprecedented move; no health secretary has ever before overruled the FDA. At the end of a year in which a record number of anti-women’s health bills were introduced in states across the country, this latest setback throws salt in the wound of those who trust women to make decisions about their own bodies. And it disregards an important and fundamental human right.

The fight for reproductive justice is far from over. But with the Ms. Foundation’s support, grassroots organizations in communities across America are working toward a future in which women have access to the resources they need to make decisions about their bodies.