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International Women's Day and the Strive for Reproductive Autonomy

In the weeks leading up to this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), the Alabama Supreme Court made a ruling in the case of a wrongful death lawsuit, determining that embryos are considered “extrauterine children.” The shifts began almost immediately; Alabama’s largest hospital, The University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital, announced they would no longer be performing procedures related to IVF. This has left thousands of families, thousands of women, in reproductive limbo.

This isn’t the first, or likely the last, attack on reproductive rights in the US or around the globe. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 40% of women worldwide live in countries with restrictive abortion laws, including in the US; in our country, 16 states ban abortion either at conception or after six weeks. An additional five states ban abortion after 12-18 weeks. 

In this era of limitations on women's autonomy, whether they want to get pregnant or want to terminate a pregnancy, it can feel futile, hopeless even, to move toward progress. And yet… doing just that is all we have. Over 100 years ago, International Women’s Day was established when thousands of women collectively protested against unfair wages and dangerous working conditions. The idea garnered traction internationally, inspiring women to protest for their rights to vote, work, and hold public office. In 1913, the day was officially set as March 8th and continues to be a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the globe while bringing light to the continued disenfranchisement and marginalization that women face globally. Their fight continues, though the issues at hand may have shifted here in our country.

One might wonder where to put their efforts or financial contributions to honor IWD. The following issues and associated organizations are a great launching point to learn more about where to focus time, energy, and funds on this IWD. 

  • Access to Reproductive Healthcare: This includes access to affordable contraception, prenatal care, abortion services, and maternal health services. Many women, especially those from low-income communities and communities of color, face barriers such as lack of insurance coverage, restrictive laws, and the closure of reproductive health clinics, making it difficult for them to access essential reproductive healthcare services. The Reproductive Health Access Program works to train clinicians and practitioners to increase access and can be found here:

  • Reproductive Rights: International Women's Day serves as a platform to advocate for the protection of reproductive rights, including the right to make decisions about one's body and reproductive health without interference or coercion. This includes fighting against laws and policies that restrict access to abortion, impose waiting periods, mandatory counseling, and other barriers that infringe upon women's autonomy and decision-making. The Yellowhammer Fund is an abortion fund providing direct access to financial means to those seeking abortions in Alabama, Mississippi, and elsewhere in the South, and can be found here:

  • Maternal Health Disparities: Women of color in the United States face disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity compared to white women. International Women's Day provides an opportunity to address these racial disparities in maternal health outcomes and advocate for policies and programs that prioritize maternal health equity and address the root causes of these disparities. Black Mamas Matter Alliance advocates for change at the legislative level in addition to offering events and conferences focusing on increasing knowledge about health disparities impacting Black women. They can be found here: 

  • Perinatal Mental Health: Postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders affect up to 1 in 5 new mothers, impacting bonding, parenting, and family dynamics. Limited screening protocols and healthcare provider training further compound the issue. While strides have been made in recognizing perinatal mental health as a public health priority, comprehensive strategies are needed to ensure timely identification, intervention, and support, ultimately fostering healthier outcomes for mothers and infants alike. Postpartum Support International works to train clinicians in providing care specific to those in the perinatal period, in addition to offering direct support to those coping with various perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. They can be found here:

International Women’s Day is a time to raise awareness, advocate for change, and stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for their rights and autonomy. It is a reminder of the ongoing struggle for gender and reproductive justice and the importance of collective action to address systemic inequalities. To quote Maya Angelou, “no one of us can be free until everybody is free.” Let us remember this on International Women’s Day, and all days, to move the needle of progress toward the light of justice.

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