Thursday, July 19, 2012

LGBT Full Inclusion & Contraception: Not Controversial

When I tell people what I do for a living, some times people respond by saying, "Wow, you work on the most controversial issues of our time."  People use phrases like "hot button issues" and "wedge issues" to describe the movements for full inclusion of LGBT people, marriage equality, and recently, contraceptive coverage.

Except that the reality is that they are not.  At last week's London Summit on Family Planning, sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the British Government, donor governments and foundations promised to provide an additional $4.6 million so that an additional 120 million women can receive family planning services.  The vast majority of people in the U.S., including women of all faiths, use and support contraception.  The trumped up Fortnight to Freedom campaign by the U.S. Catholic Bishops tried to make contraception a controversial public policy issue failed to garner much public attention, especially as compared to the U.S. Nuns on the Bus campaign against draconian budget cuts.

The American public is also increasingly in favor of LGBT rights.  Recent polls show that the majority of Americans now support marriage rights, and more than three quarters support legislation protecting lesbian and gay people from employment discrimination.  It is indeed shameful that the Boy Scouts of America just reaffirmed its position against openly gay Boy Scouts or Boy Scout leaders, at a time when the vast majority of young people the ages of those engaged in those programs support gay rights.  There simply is no justification for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity -- and Americans agree. 

We need to actively resist those who would marginalize issues of sexual justice by labeling them as "too hot to handle."  One can only hope that the platform committees of both parties are listening. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

World Reproductive Justice Day

July 11 is World Population Day.,

July 11, 2012 is the historic Family Planning Summit in London, England.  Sponsored by The Gates Foundation, its goal is to develop and commit to new strategies to provide 110 million women around the world with contraceptive services they currently do not have.  It is estimated that 222 million women, mostly in the developing world, lack access to birth control.

I agree with my colleagues at Population Action International that family planning is essential but not enough.  These 222 million women need access to a broad array of sexual and reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion.  We need to be advocating for reproductive justice writ large not population control, an argument that I thought we had won in 1994 in Cairo at the ICPD conference.

Nevertheless, there are strong religious foundations for affirming safe, affordable, accessible and comprehensive family planning services.  Access to contraception allows for a fulfilling sexual life while reducing maternal and infant mortality, unintended pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted infections.  Every individual adult, no matter where they live, is a moral agent with the right and responsibility to make their own decisions about procreation, including family size and the spacing of their children.

There can be no question that in a just world, all people would have equal access to contraception.  We stand with and pray for those in London today to affirm reproductive justice for all.