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These measures include post abortion healing; male responsibility; comprehensive sexual/reproductive health education; all voluntary pregnancy prevention methods, plus rape and incest prevention & treatment; and life-affirming ways to get through crisis pregnancy and beyond.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

For an Even Bolder Reproductive Health Agenda, Why Not.....

To mark International Women's Day, RH (Reproductive Health) Reality Check and UN Dispatch are teaming up for the salon A New Agenda for Girls's and Women's and Health and Rights.

The salon includes and responds to a (.pdf) report by Adrienne Germain of the International Women's Health Coalition. It urges and contemplates a much improved role for the United States in promoting global reproductive health.

Although the US government has yet to catch up to them, the salon commentators demonstrate just how far global reproductive health advocacy has progressed over the years and decades. No one reductively blames and scapegoats poor women of color's fertility for starvation and environmental destruction; quite the opposite. The agenda is broad and comprehensive and thoroughly feminist, solidly grounded in the human rights and needs of women and girls. In other words, it represents an aspiration to reproductive justice for all.

While Germain's report and all the salon panel members appear to take an abortion-rights stand, they do not fixate on that issue, let alone to the detriment of all the others. They attend to the "other" issues--measures which, incidentally, whether in effect or by intent have the power to reduce abortion, such as improved contraceptive access and expanded, comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

Former and longtime Catholics for a Free Choice leader Frances Kissling does pose this question of Germain's report: "Is This a 'Bold' Plan?" She concludes: "It is a good plan for the 20th century, but I say let's be really bold and move to the 21st."

Why doesn't she does consider Germain's a bold and current enough plan? In part:

Adolescent sexuality is not just "going to happen"; it has its place in adolescent life. Birth control and sex education for adolescents should not just be there as an antidote to the disease of adolescent sexuality but as an aid to healthy and responsible adolescent sexual expression. Ditto on abortion. I note the word appears once in Germain's agenda while we all know anti-abortion moralizing is one of the key problems in including abortion services and information in sexual and reproductive health programs.


I agree with Kissling that access to birth control and comprehensive sex education should not be simply looked upon in terms of a zeal to avert catastrophe. Of course it is essential for them to protect young people (and not-so-young people) against negative or undesired outcomes. But birth control access and sex education at the same time should at the same time actively address the very real and human--yet too often neglected-- need to cultivate the nonviolent giving and receiving of sexual pleasure.

But abortion? It's something different altogether. That pesky issue of taking early life--or potential life, in the estimation of some--is just too inescapable. Not to mention the reality that so many women resort to abortion because they have been denied sexual/reproductive choice to begin with...among other distressing facets of many women's abortion experiences.

It's not just that same-old same-old Bush administration "anti-abortion moralizing" that seeks to keep abortion advocacy out of a global reproductive health and rights agenda.


What would a really bold, 21st-century--and beyond--agenda be? One that joined both prochoice and prolife women's and girls' rights advocates in deliberately, consciously, seriously making abortion obsolete as possible, through social progress to alleviate its root causes.

This is precisely what Ms. Turn the Clock Forward evokes in the name of her blog.

So much that could be done in this area is going undone, overlooked, neglected.

Can we begin to imagine a world where abortion for the most part is regarded as a barbaric, violent, outmoded solution to human problems, where better solutions exist and are readily accessed?

I don't think it's a matter of whether that world can be made a reality. It's a matter of whether enough individuals and institutions will set their sights and their persistent deeds on it.

Who knew, forty years ago during my smoke-filled, ashtray-dumping childhood, that another life-denying practice--tobacco use--would be today so successfully reduced in the United States? Not simply through entreaties to individual behaviorial changes, but through institutional challenges to the tobacco industry, which are now being sought worldwide through instruments such as a global tobacco treaty.

So why not approach abortion in a parallel way, for real, not just in rhetoric? Dare I say that would make for a genuinely, radically bold 21st century reproductive justice agenda?

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