A New Era for Reproductive Rights

Statement by Center President Nancy Northup

The Center for Reproductive Rights congratulates President Barack Obama on his historic inauguration. Center President Nancy Northup issued the following statement:

"Today, as the world celebrates the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, we look forward to a new and hopeful era for reproductive health and rights.  The United States is poised to once again be a champion for women's reproductive health and autonomy at home and on the world stage.  We urge President Obama to take quick and decisive action to not only reverse Bush's damaging reproductive health policies, but also to advance women’s reproductive rights as basic human rights.

"Immediate steps can be taken that would allow all women to get the safe and affordable reproductive health care they need, which will improve the lives of women and strengthen families worldwide.  Specifically, we call on the new administration to:

  • Repeal the Global Gag Rule as one of Obama's first actions in office. Since it was re-imposed by President Bush in 2000, this policy has undercut decades of global progress in women’s reproductive health and denied millions of women worldwide essential reproductive healthcare.  It has had a devastating impact on women’s health and economic security in nearly 60 countries around the world, and rescinding it will literally mean the difference between life and death for many of the 20 million women who are driven to unsafe abortions each year.
  • Suspend enforcement of a recent regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services that allows anyone who provides healthcare services to refuse women basic care based on personal beliefs. Issued in December, this rule will drastically interfere with the ability of more than 17 million women to get quality health services—including contraception, counseling and information necessary to make decisions about their own reproductive health.  In particular it compromises the health of women who rely on public programs.
  • Strike from Obama’s proposed budget the Hyde Amendment and other funding restrictions that prevent women from obtaining abortions. These policies have put millions of low-income women in dangerous situations, forcing some to continue with a pregnancy even when it jeopardizes their health. In fact, 20-35% of Medicaid-eligible women who would choose abortion don’t when public funds are not available. Another federal restriction prevents American servicewomen from obtaining an abortion at U.S. military medical facilities with their own funds, compromising their health and safety.
  • Nominate federal judges committed to supporting established constitutional rights. Over the last 35 years since Roe v. Wade was decided, the legal underpinnings of the right to abortion have been severely weakened and only four of the nine Supreme Court Justices have expressed their support for Roe. In 2007, by upholding the first-ever federal ban on abortion in the case Gonzalez v. Carhart, the Court signaled its willingness to further undermine constitutional protections for a woman's right to abortion and possibly to overturn Roe entirely.
  • Promote reproductive health policies guided by science, not ideology. The Bush administration's ideological agenda has been in complete disregard of objective scientific evidence and particularly troubling in the area of reproductive health. The new administration should strike funding for abstinence-only programs in the proposed budgets for the Title V Maternal-Child Health Block grant and the Community-Based Abstinence-Education programs; appoint agency heads, particularly to Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA, who won't allow politics to trump science; and direct the HHS Secretary to instruct the FDA to ensure its over-the-counter policy for the emergency contraceptive Plan B is based on medical evidence and not ideology.
  • Restore funding to the United Nations Population Fund. U.S. foreign assistance policy has reflected extreme ideological positions that have ignored the dire need to make family planning available in developing nations. In addition to re-imposing the Global Gag Rule, to date, the Bush administration has blocked funding for the international development agency UNFPA, for seven consecutive years, amounting to approximately $235 million in lost U.S. support around the world.

"By taking these actions, President Obama will demonstrate much needed U.S. leadership and commitment to the constitutional and human rights principles at the heart of reproductive rights—dignity, equality, and the ability to make reproductive decisions freely, without coercion or discrimination."  

Beyond these immediate steps, we urge the new administration and Congress to move forward on a comprehensive reproductive health and rights agenda. We’ve set that out in our U.S. Policy Agenda.

Please support our efforts:  Tell President Obama to make reproductive health and rights a priority. Make a donation to the Center.