Today, March 8, is International Women's Day, a day to focus on women's social and economic progress. In honor of this day, Planned Parenthood Global has launched a new animated video and online petition called Health Has No Borders, making the case for robust investments in women's health around the world.
In our country and globally, women's health and rights have greatly advanced in the past century. Yet huge disparities remain.
In Ethiopia, where my son was born, one in three women wants to plan or delay motherhood, but can't. And in a country like Ethiopia, an unintended pregnancy can put a woman's life at risk. Ethiopia has the fifth-highest maternal death rate in the world; each year one in 27 women dies from pregnancy-related causes and more than 50,000 women are treated in health facilities for complications from unsafe abortion.
The problem is massive -- around the world, 215 million women want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to modern contraception -- but we know the solution. When women have the information and services they need, they are able to delay pregnancy, stay in school, pursue meaningful careers, and become leaders in society.
Unfortunately, opponents of birth control in Congress want to restrict access and put politics before women's health. Over and over again they have tried to slash funding for and impose restrictions on family planning programs in the U.S. and overseas. In the U.S., they have fought against co-pay-free insurance coverage of contraception. On the international side, they have proposed cuts to foreign aid, tried to eliminate the U.S. contribution to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and attempted to impose dangerous restrictions on governments and organizations overseas that accept our help.
The U.S. is a leading funder of international family planning and has been for 40 years. The president's budget requests for the next year stay true to these ideals by protecting support for these programs overseas. Now it's up to Congress to pass a budget with this funding intact. And up to you to tell Congress that you support strong investments in women's health and the elimination of disparities everywhere. When it comes to health, there should be no borders.