In U.S. Elections, Global Women's Rights at Stake

Suffragettes, 1921 (via Wikipedia)
Two very different visions for the future of women around the world are on the ballot today as Americans head for the polls to decide between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The U.S. media has provided ample coverage of the so-called ‘War on Women,’ that is, the Republican initiatives that give fetuses and embryos more human rights than the pregnant mothers who carry them (Romney supports the “personhood” of a fertilized egg, which could, by law, charge pregnant women with murder if they have an abortion; or worse, demand that a woman carry a child to term even if her life is at risk). But little has been said about what a Mitt Romney administration means to women on a global scale. Romney’s website states:
Mitt believes that life begins at conception and wishes that the laws of our nation reflected that view. But while the nation remains so divided, he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade… Mitt supports the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. As president, he will end federal funding for abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood.
Never mind that Planned Parenthood also offers birth control consultations, funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings, and free STD testing among other crucial services for those who cannot afford it. 

Candidate Romney’s agenda for reversing a woman’s right to choose is not confined to U.S. borders. If elected, he will reinstate the global gag rule, or Mexico City Policy, which will disavow any U.S. aid to family planning services that offer abortions. The gag rule also demands that family planning practitioners receiving U.S. aid remain silenced on abortion, no matter what the circumstances, thereby hindering free speech on an international scale. The European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development petitioned the U.S. Congress condemning the gag rule, stating that it “undermines internationally agreed consensus and goals."

Romney also believes in cutting off money for the United Nations Population Fund. Nicholas Kristof, author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, says that he has witnessed the United Nations Population Fund’s valuable work in “supporting contraception, repairing obstetric fistulas, and fighting to save the lives of women dying in childbirth.”

According to Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, voter turnout in presidential elections among women has been proportionately larger than that of men since 1980. Here’s to hoping that this trend continues, and that American women realize how powerful their vote could be for the future of other women, children, and families around the world.