CARE BLOG

A Request for President Obama

1/22/09

Written by Christy Turlington Burns.

It's time to get rid of a policy that kills women around the world.
As we gear up for the new year ahead and new leadership
in the White House, the fate and well-being of hundreds of thousands of
women around the world hangs in the balance.

More than half a million women die each year giving
birth. Young women - adolescent girls ages 15 to 19 - are often the
most vulnerable; they account for at least 20 percent of these largely
preventable deaths. Fifteen percent of all pregnant women worldwide
experience obstetric complications. Too often, a young woman will be in
labor for several days, resulting in her baby's death because her birth
is unattended. As it stands, 13 percent of these maternal deaths
worldwide - 67,000 per year - are due to unsafe abortion procedures.

Thankfully, on Election Day, we did not choose four more
years of conservative, unsympathetic leaders. Under the previous
administration, we simply made it far too difficult for women outside
of the U.S. to access reproductive-health and family-planning services.
Case in point: In 1984, the Reagan administration established the
Mexico City Policy - widely referred to as the Global Gag Rule because
it denies foreign organizations receiving U.S. family-planning
assistance the right to use their own non-U.S. funds to provide legal
abortion or counsel, or even to refer to abortion or to lobby for the
legalization of abortion. President Clinton rescinded this policy in
1993, but President George W. Bush reinstated it on his first day in
office in 2001.

Let's call on President Obama to rescind it again.

Since 1995, U.S. funding for international
family-planning programs has fallen by more than $100 million, despite
the fact that the number of women of reproductive age in the developing
world alone has increased by approximately 275 million. If Congress
continues to cut maternal and child health care at this rate, we will
suffer serious global implications. Wars rage when resources are
scarce. Food security is compromised, development is halted, and the
ever-present gap widens between those who have and those who have not.

It's time to stop defunding international aid
organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund, and to stop
our participation in a shameful hypocrisy as we benefit from easy
access to reproductive-health services that ensure our own health and
security. Our policies should serve as many people as possible, not
just the privileged - and by privileged, I mean those of us who have
our basic human rights.

According to the UNFPA, about 90 percent of global
abortion-related deaths and disabilities could be avoided if women who
wanted effective contraception were given access. Is this not a win-win
situation?

It is time to reestablish our presence as an accountable and responsible world power. Write to President Obama and ask him to start by rescinding the Mexico City Policy.


Christy Turlington Burns is a contributing editor at
Marie Claire and a CARE Advocate for Maternal Health. For more
information on maternal health and family planning around the world, go
to care.org. And check out Christy's latest Marie Claire column.