Field & Outreach, December 2023

Written by YoVanna Solomon, Senior Fellow | Published: December 11, 2023

Right wing extremists continue to do their best to ensure that people in this country, and around the world, are denied access to reproductive health care. In 2022, the Supreme Court stripped Americans of their constitutional right to legal and safe abortion, when it overturned Roe v. Wade. This past summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to cut investment in international family planning programs by $150 million, ban aid to UNFPA, and reinstate the Global Gag Rule.

Although not in effect since President Biden lifted it at the beginning of his term, the threat of the Gag Rule’s return looms over any foreign clinic that receives U.S. family planning assistance.

It’s against this backdrop that we are reactivating our #Fight4HER campaign. To get things started, we hosted a virtual kickoff rally in October, where we were honored to be joined by several advocates from East Africa. The speakers highlighted the real-life impacts of reproductive health and rights programs for people in their countries, and the pressing need for greater investment in them.

Leshan Kereto, Founder of Tareto Africa, a community-based organization that works with Maasai people in Kenya, highlighted choice as a fundamental component of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

William Johnson, Director of Awakening Horn for Inclusive Development in Tanzania, spoke about the need for consistent and reliable investment in international family planning. He said that the introduction of regressive U.S. policies has immediate effects on programming and services offered throughout the world, leaving girls and women without the support, information, and resources needed to ensure their reproductive health and rights. William says, “Giving women and girls a space to access sexual and reproductive health services without coercion is a cornerstone in building stable, successful, and happy families and nations.”

Esther Morris, Founder of Naweza Tena in Tanzania, stressed the dire effects of the Global Gag Rule for vulnerable populations with unique needs, such as sex workers and people struggling with drug addiction. When funding is withheld from the local organizations that serve these individuals, they are denied lifesaving resources like safe abortion, STI prevention, and overdose intervention. Esther says:

Every person, regardless of their circumstances, has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This includes the right to make decisions about their own bodies and reproductive health without discrimination. Protecting the sexual and reproductive health of drug addicts and sex workers upholds their human rights and dignity.

Doreen Nakibuule, Project Officer at Tunaweza Foundation in Uganda, shed light on how restrictive U.S. policies like the Global Gag Rule enable leaders in countries such as Uganda to more easily pass their own restrictive laws that reinforce stigma and discrimination around reproductive health services. Persons with disabilities are among those most directly impacted, as they often rely heavily on non-governmental organizations for information and resources to make informed choices about their bodies, families, and relationships.

Melvine Ouyo, Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Kenya Slum Adolescents Initiative and a Population Connection Board Member, emphasized the need for Congress to pass the Global HER Act to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, which would prevent teen pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal deaths.

“Reproductive rights are human rights. Lack of access to reproductive rights is unjust, specifically to vulnerable women, girls, and other marginalized groups. Bodily autonomy equals empowerment.”

–Melvine Ouyo

Kyoma Macklean, Executive Director at The Alliance of Women Advocating for Change, discussed the vital importance of sexual and reproductive rights for female sex workers in Uganda. The ability to obtain comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care—including STI and HIV prevention, testing, and treatment; contraception and family planning services; and safe abortion—allows them to make their own best choices and maintain bodily autonomy and dignity. She says, “I call upon national and international development partners, including country governments, to increase funding for community-led health interventions.”

Our speakers’ passion and dedication lit up the Zoom room and allowed our audience to deeply understand what’s at stake for reproductive health and rights around the world. We are so grateful to each of them for their inspiring, invaluable work and for taking part in the rally. We look forward to collaborating with all of them throughout the next phase of our exciting #Fight4HER campaign!