Accountability. Now this a word I have heard time and again. I know the concept mostly in reference to law enforcement, particularly their response to sexual assault and intimate partner abuse. So, why hasn’t it surfaced in other contexts of reproductive health, specifically abortion, contraception and sex education? In her latest blog post, Cristina Page suggests that politicians should hold the “pro-life” and “right to life” movements accountable. Accountable for what? For their failure to reduce the high rates of unintended pregnancy and reported abortion. The movements have successfully campaigned against access to safe abortion procedures while also decreasing access to contraceptives and accurate, life-saving information. Page suggests the upcoming election will provide a national forum where candidates can bring light to the contradictions of these policies.
Why wait until the election to ensure accountability? In truth, I don’t think we have waited. A variety of initiatives are percolating across the states that ensure accurate information be provided in sexual health education classes, for example, the Responsible Education About life Act. In 2004, the March for Women’s Lives brought together thousands who marched in Washington DC to demand political and social justice for women and girls. This brought us from the concept of “choice” that has been a myth due to the cut of federal funding for abortions, government bans placed on a variety of abortion procedures and the fact that nearly 87% of US counties lack an abortion provider, to the recognition of bodily integrity and the need to restore rights in order to stay healthy.
Activists know that those working in favor of reproductive justice do more in one day to prevent unplanned pregnancies than the “pro-life” movement has done in a generation. This includes dispensing birth control, condoms and emergency contraception and providing people with accurate information about biology and reproduction. However, the messages sent by those in opposition to these methods have been extremely successful in overshadowing these successes and restricting rights.
Page points out that under the current administration we have more than enough reason to demand accountability. However, we don’t seem to be too enthusiastic about it. We have continued to let the government lie to us about the reality of the war in Iraq while simultaneously allowing them to strip us of our civil liberties.
Demanding the right to health is something that clearly goes past the lines of pro-choice, pro-life and anti-abortion (to name a few). It simply comes down to justice and human rights, which are not up for debate.
Ellen is an intern at the Duvall Project