Monday, January 11, 2010

Secretary of State Clinton: Women's Health is Integral To International Security

Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton gave a strong and compelling speech this past Friday on the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development. I had the honor of being invited to the speech, but weather and a prior commitment kept me away. I understand the participants were a who's who of the sexual and reproductive rights movement.

You can watch the speech yourself here: or read the transcript at

She recommitted the United States to the program of action, and after listing out the horrifying statistics on maternal mortality around the world, said, "these numbers are not only grim, but after 15 years, they are intolerable. If we believe that human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights, then we cannot accept the ongoing marginalization of half the world's population. We cannot accept it morally, politically, socially, or economically." She said that the Obama administration is "integrating women's issues as key elements of our foreign policy agenda" and "rededicating ourselves to the global efforts to improve reproductive health for women and girls....we have pledged new funding, new programs, and a renewed commitment to achieve Millennium Development Goal Five, namely a three fourths reduction in global maternal mortality and universal access to reproductive health." She also said that more U.S. funding is on the way to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which was denied funding under the Bush administration. And she talked about U.S. supported programs integrating maternal health services, family planning, and HIV/AIDS screening and treatment -- something that I've been advocating for for more than two decades and is clearly overdue.

It was a good, compelling speech, and heart warming for those of us who worked on the Cairo conference and platform and have been dismayed during the past administration how it was ignored. But, I was also struck by what it didn't include: a call for safe and legal abortion for the world's women. I also found it telling that she did not ever use the words "sexual and reproductive health" together, words that were hard won at the Cairo conference to expand the focus of programs. She instead talked about reproductive health care and family planning services as a basic right. Is the Obama administration retreating on the sexual health and rights framework supported during the Clinton years?

It's a question I promise to pursue in the coming weeks with Administration officials.

Those concerns notwithstanding, it was thrilling to hear our country once again go on record supporting women's health, women's rights, and women's lives.

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