A Rocky Road for the World’s Women

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Today is a challenging day for me as President of a US organization dedicated to improving sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world.   Normally, I can be proud of that status; usually I can find inspiration in the rights American women enjoy and the access to high-quality healthcare that exists here in the States.  Today, however, the road to global progress feels rocky.

I want to celebrate and cheer because we just received fabulous news from our colleagues in Peru. Abortion has been legal in that country since 1924 in cases where the life of the mother was at stake. However, a lack of public guidelines and protocols prevented the public sector from offering the lifesaving procedure—a major gap in services in a country where the majority of people are dependent on public health providers for their care.

No longer. 

I want to celebrate and cheer because we just received fabulous news from our colleagues in Peru. Today, the government just approved guidelines under which public health care providers can offer the care women are entitled to—termination of pregnancies which threaten a woman’s health or life.

Today, the government issued guidelines determining when threats to the life or health of a woman make abortion legal, paving the way for providers to confidently offer the care to which women are entitled. I am especially proud because the Country Director of Pathfinder’s programs in Peru, Miguel Gutierrez, was one of the many Peruvians passionately advocating for this important and historic step toward protecting women’s right to reproductive health.

Tempering my celebration is the local news of the past couple of days. In the past week alone, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a Massachusetts law (where Pathfinder has its headquarters) which prevented abortion protestors from standing within 35 feet of the doors to an abortion clinic.

And today, the Supreme Court ruled that private employers can force their religious beliefs on employees by refusing to pay for health insurance which covers the full range of contraception options recommended by the World Health Organization. 

Today, as I learn that in Peru (where Pathfinder has operated for nearly 40 years) the government has taken a key step in advancing the health and rights of its citizens, I also have to come to terms with the fact that the United States is retreating from policies which would help protect the rights and well-being of women.

It is a challenging day indeed but it furthers Pathfinder’s determination to continue to serve women to attain their sexual and reproductive rights.  

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Thank you for the good news about Peru. I know that Miguel Gutierrez has been instrumental in making that news come about. And I certainly share with you your disappointment in the Supreme Court decision. With our own buffer zone here is Maine being affected, we Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights are GRRing.
Julia Kahrl July 5, 2014
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