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A Woman’s Power to Make Choices — It’s Nonnegotiable

Analysis Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, President and CEO

Another concerted effort is underway to slowly chip away at a woman’s most basic human right in the form of the most restrictive and vigilante-style anti-abortion laws in the history of our nation. Local legislators are determined to snuff out the fundamental right of millions of women to determine when and if they want to have a child, as if women’s autonomy were a destructive threat gone ablaze.

The decision to have a child impacts every aspect of a woman’s life, from health status and mental well-being to financial standing and career opportunities. When policy polices women’s health and autonomy, it stands in violation of human rights and disproportionately hurts Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. For these reasons and more, PAI and our peer advocates welcomed the recent U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755), which safeguards women’s ability to make choices regarding pregnancy. If enacted, this bill will protect the right to access abortion care, free of medically unnecessary restrictions and bans in all states. This is a much-needed antidote to Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB8), which bans abortions after six weeks; the state’s latest restriction banning the mail-order provision of abortion medication seven weeks into pregnancy; and other such bills.

Given the ongoing threats to women’s health and rights and the fight over access to safe abortion in the United States since Roe v. Wade, the recent Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the state of Texas over SB8 was a welcome move in recognizing access to safe abortions as essential health care for women. The steps the Biden administration has taken to protect and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights everywhere, and its commitments to gender equality, underscore that preserving women’s health is central to a thriving democracy, progress and prosperity — here and abroad.

In PAI’s more than 50 years of work with our partners around the world to advance the rights of women to make decisions for themselves and their lives, we have witnessed the dire costs that result from policy prescriptions and laws that undermine a woman’s ability to determine her future. Not only are such laws in violation of an individual’s right to bodily autonomy, health and sexuality — but they may veritably put women’s lives in danger, make them vulnerable to violence and deny them lifesaving health care.

As we have witnessed time and again, what happens in the United States doesn’t just stay in the United States. The same ideology and movements that are behind these U.S. laws are also the forces pushing for an anti-choice foreign policy imposing a paternalistic and discriminatory value system on the lives of women in other countries. For decades, anti-choice laws have escalated abortion stigma and emboldened sexual and reproductive health and rights opponents in the United States and abroad — transcending borders and influencing anti-abortion sentiment around the world.

As U.S.-based advocates of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, the right to abortion in the United States also underlies our efforts to champion access to safe abortion, family planning and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care around the world. Through advocacy for supportive U.S. foreign assistance and policies for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and rights, including efforts to ensure contraceptives stay on shelves, providers can do their jobs and people around the world are able to access safe abortion, we are investing in human rights, dignity and progress for women, their families and their communities worldwide.

As an immigrant to the United States, I know firsthand what this investment means for ourselves and our families, no matter where we live, the language we speak and the color of our skin. The right to choose, the right to access quality care and the right to be treated with compassion and inclusion are fundamental to humanity. I am the example of the power that these rights can unleash: opportunity, resilience and the achievement of bold aspirations. This power, multiplied, is the bright future that we collectively aspire for each other and for communities around the world. Ensuring that power is realized is not only essential, but also nonnegotiable.

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