Today is the 36th anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. It is a very important day to both pro-choice and anti-abortion activists, but most of America is preoccupied with the release of the Oscar nominations. But despite the public's inattention to the subject of abortion access, it is one of the foundations of freedom in our country today. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid out in her dissent of the court's decision in Gonzalez v. Carhart, a case that confirmed the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Ban as constitutional, women must have control over her reproduction to have full and equal access to citizenship.
The list of tasks for this new administration is long, but today is a day for many pro-choice activists like myself to ask the administration to make choices about women. My list is long as well, mostly because women's health has been under attack for the last eight years.
1. Rescind what is known as the "global gag rule." This regulation, one of Bush's first acts in office, withholds funds from any group that also provides abortion services or includes abortion as an option for women seeking family planning, even if the U.S. funds aren't used for abortion itself. This has caused massive budget cuts in organizations like Planned Parenthood International. When clinics like these shut down, women in third world countries often have no where else to turn to for family planning or other medical care.
2. Repeal the Hyde amendment. This is a domestic law that forbids federal funds from getting used on abortion services. Although many may not want "their" tax dollars used for abortions, abortions, like other kinds of health care to poor people, are extremely difficult to fund privately and repealing this amendment would do more to increase access to family planning to poor women than almost any other action.
3. Fully fund Title X. Family planning funds have remained roughly stagnant since the beginning of the Bush administration. Just to get the funds to where they were, adjusted for inflation, in 2000, the Obama administration must allocate more than $700 million (the previous administration allocated $300 million), and even that number doesn't do enough to hire translators or bilingual staff at family planning clinics, increase the service to women who might require more attention, or allow family planning clinics to open in states where there may be so few.
4. Restore U.S. funding to the UNFPA. As Michelle Goldberg outlines in her forthcoming book, antichoice activists used false allegations of UNFPA officials using coercive abortion practices in China to de-fund the United Nations Population Fund. By restoring funding to the organization, it would show the world that the United States is willing to become a leader on family planning again.
5. End funding to abstinence-only programs in the United States. Such programs have been proven, through study after study, to be ineffective at reducing teen pregnancy or delaying age of sexual initiation. Our young people deserve the information they need to use condoms and other contraception when they do decide to become sexually active.
6. Begin looking at ways to increase access to abortion and family planning services, rather than just stopping the losses. Many women today, especially women in southern states where abortion is unpopular, have a serious lack of access to abortion and family planning clinics. The most recent study shows that more than 87 percent of counties in the United States don't have an abortion clinic and Mississippi and South Dakota only have one in the entire state.
7. Include women's reproductive health care in any future reforms to the health care system overall. Women use health care very differently than men. Women visit doctors more often and spend more on prescriptions because of birth control and other contraception. Pregnant women often aren't covered under individual insurance plans, and even if they are, they pay more for marginal care. Women need to be fully included in future health care reforms.
8. Make reproductive health something that everyone cares about. There is often an urge to allow reproductive health groups to be the ones to care and talk about access issues, but reproductive health and family planning affects everyone. By leaving the burden on certain groups to talk about these issues, they often become ignored or marginalized in public discourse. They are considered less important or serious than other issues like foreign policy or the economy when reproductive health and rights is intricately linked with these issues.
9. Become a world leader on reproductive health and rights. Women around the world suffer from the inequalities of their societies, are subjected to rape as a weapon and are forced into child marriages or genital cutting before they can make the decisions for themselves. By becoming a world leader on addressing these issues, we can show the world that we are a humanitarian nation once again.
10. Develop new methods of contraception. There are many available options of contraception today, but they're not enough. Many hormonal contraceptions make people sick. We need to develop new ways for people to access contraception -- and yes, this includes men.
UPDATE: This list is by no means definitive. I ask you to leave your requests to the new administration in comments.