Today is Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, so we’re taking stock of sexual and reproductive rights around the globe. For many Americans, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the struggle to safeguard women’s health in the United States. We often forget about what’s happening in the developing world. So, a reminder:
- In Bolivia, Guatemala and Mexico, health coverage for indigenous families lags substantially behind the rest of the population. In Guatemala, maternal mortality among indigenous women is almost double that of non-indigenous women. Organizations like Asociacion de Mujeres Campesinas Q’eqchies “Nuevo Horizonte” are dedicated to promoting the rights and health of Q’eqchi women in Guatemala by organizing communities to work on projects to reduce sexual and gender-based violence; increase public education on sexual health and rights; and build women’s leadership and presence in community and municipal decision-making.
- In Uganda, women with disabilities face huge barriers to accessing reproductive health information and services due to poverty and discrimination. They are more vulnerable to sexual assault, sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. Gulu Union for Women with Disabilities (GUWODU) is developing Uganda’s first HIV and AIDS and reproductive health manual in sign language and is advocating for leaders and international organizations to respond more actively to the sexual health concerns of women with disabilities.
- In Thailand, young migrant workers living unaccompanied in factories are especially vulnerable to rape and sexual assault due to a lack of social support from their families and communities. Teenage pregnancy among clients at Mae Tao Clinic—a health clinic located in Mae Sot, Thailand near the Burma border—increased from 21 percent in 2003 to 30 percent in 2005. Complications due to unsafe abortions account for roughly one third of inpatients at Mae Tao Clinic’s reproductive health department. In India, grassroots women’s organizations like Sahayog are working to monitor the quality of local maternal health services and to campaign for increased women’s participation in the local councils and for the inclusion of women’s issues in council discussions.
Decades of struggle have championed many victories. But we still have a long way to go before access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, including safe abortions, becomes a reality and a human right for all.
Jordan Namerow is the senior communications associate at American Jewish World Service.