Nothing About Us Without Us: Women’s Voices Must Be Heard!

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Earlier this month we wrote about the right to universal access to health care in the context of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Yet again this month, women’s health rights are being used as a political football.

The reversal of the Komen Foundation’s decision, in response to public outcry, only amplifies our newest concerns: the voices of affected people must play a role in all policy decisions.

I’m sure you’ve seen the now-infamous photo of an all-male witness panel at the February 17 hearing on contraception and religious freedom, held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Democratic minority nominated a woman for this panel—an average woman with experience of the implications of insurance companies denying coverage of birth control. She was denied as a witness by the majority GOP, apparently because she was deemed unqualified to speak to the issue. Two women were witnesses on the second panel, one a female physician.

A woman was declared unqualified to speak to an issue that directly affects only women. Yes, contraception and conception of course impact men. But they are not the ones who can get pregnant, be faced with the choice of whether a baby is an affordable option, who sometimes risk death because of complications that contraception may have prevented. Men have rights in these circumstances. But their voices alone do not begin to cover the issue thoroughly.

The human rights framework requires that government represents the needs and voices of all people.

And yet, shutting women out of political processes is nothing new, nor is it uniquely a U.S. issue or unique to this Congress. This is not unlike situations we frequently find in peace processes, where men are deemed “qualified” to participate in negotiations because they wielded a gun during the conflict, while women who endured the conflict are not included, though they certainly have opinions that could make peace processes more responsive and lasting.

It is gender-based discrimination, and it is a violation of human rights.

Worldwide, it is a long slog to shift away from our historically male-dominated power structure. But the men and women currently in power have a responsibility to protect and hear the voices of those without power. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform failed miserably at upholding the responsibility of our elected officials to actually represent us and enable the public’s participation in politics.

The politicization of women’s health often leads to violations of the human right to health. But it also violates many other fundamental human rights. And, perhaps most importantly, it represents a basic disrespect of the power of women to be educated, informed, and opinionated. These, too, are human rights. And they must be protected.

To get involved, learn more about our women’s rights work and join our Women’s Human Rights Network on Facebook.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

28 thoughts on “Nothing About Us Without Us: Women’s Voices Must Be Heard!

  1. In addition to it's contraceptive uses, birth control serves a number of other medical purposes. For instance, I originally started taking birth control when I was in high school to regulate my out of control menstrual cycle. Before birth control, I would be in extreme pain for days, barely able to function throughout the day. I tried everything, and nothing worked like birth control did. Furthermore, I have an ovary condition that, without birth control, could leave me infertile or lead to bladder infections. People need to put the morality of contraception aside and take a look at the other medical problems that birth control can help.

  2. Maybe we need to requalify birth control as hormone regulation. Change the terminology and reframe the context of all its applications. I really like the point of the previous comment about it being used for other medical purposes beside prevention of pregnancy.
    It has so many uses and this gets lost in all the political discussion.

  3. I also agree with changing the name. My daughter takes a "birth control pill" but it is for hormone replacement therapy as she has many medical issues. I was also taking it for years to regulate an out of control and at times debilitating menstrual cycle. ( I have my tubes "tied" so I don't need another form of birth control.)

    People need to keep their religion out of my medical options.

  4. Yes I also agree with changing the name. Sometimes it is necessery with birth control and can save lifes… It is then so importent to put the religion out especielly in this case! Please let the women decide their own destiny!

  5. In addition to it’s contraceptive uses, birth control serves a number of other medical purposes. For instance, I originally started taking birth control when I was in high school to regulate my out of control menstrual cycle. Before birth control, I would be in extreme pain for days, barely able to function throughout the day. I tried everything, and nothing worked like birth control did. Furthermore, I have an ovary condition that, without birth control, could leave me infertile or lead to bladder infections. People need to put the morality of contraception aside and take a look at the other medical problems that birth control can help.

  6. Maybe we need to requalify birth control as hormone regulation. Change the terminology and reframe the context of all its applications. I really like the point of the previous comment about it being used for other medical purposes beside prevention of pregnancy.
    It has so many uses and this gets lost in all the political discussion.

  7. I also agree with changing the name. My daughter takes a “birth control pill” but it is for hormone replacement therapy as she has many medical issues. I was also taking it for years to regulate an out of control and at times debilitating menstrual cycle. ( I have my tubes “tied” so I don’t need another form of birth control.)

    People need to keep their religion out of my medical options.

  8. Yes I also agree with changing the name. Sometimes it is necessery with birth control and can save lifes… It is then so importent to put the religion out especielly in this case! Please let the women decide their own destiny!

  9. Yes, I agree with the name being changed, because the very name "birth control" is a rather sick and twisted euphemism. It is not controlling birth, but rather preventing life, the natural outcome of sexual intercourse, the purpose of it. Calling the pill "birth control" enables people to seperate the act of sex from procreation, which is indeed the consequence of such an act. So, yes, let's change the name not to "hormone regulation" which is surely a more disturbing and masking euphemism, but to something that more accurately reflects the main purpose of the drug, say, for example, "baby prevention," or, "I'm not ready to have sex but I'm going to go ahead and have sex anyway and if I take this pill then I won't have to accept the consequences of my actions." Yes, many doctors prescribe the pill for other medical reasons, but when they do, it seems to give women a license to have premarital sex or sex with a person with whom they are not prepared to share a child. Not to mention the long-range side effects of prolonged use of this drug. In other words, it enables women to sacrifice their dignity in order to satisfy the desires of a male that does not love them and is not ready to commit their life to them, or at the very least is not ready to accept the consequences of his desire for sexual intercourse with them. That is surely not a human right, but a sickening offense against human rights. So, yes, let's make the voice of women heard. Not just of those women under the delusion that sex is recreation and children are optional, but those women who are prepared to own their own fertility as a gift rather than a punishment, to understand their body and who don't want to have to take a drug every day so that they they man the sleep with can enjoy sex worry-free.

  10. Yes, I agree with the name being changed, because the very name “birth control” is a rather sick and twisted euphemism. It is not controlling birth, but rather preventing life, the natural outcome of sexual intercourse, the purpose of it. Calling the pill “birth control” enables people to seperate the act of sex from procreation, which is indeed the consequence of such an act. So, yes, let’s change the name not to “hormone regulation” which is surely a more disturbing and masking euphemism, but to something that more accurately reflects the main purpose of the drug, say, for example, “baby prevention,” or, “I’m not ready to have sex but I’m going to go ahead and have sex anyway and if I take this pill then I won’t have to accept the consequences of my actions.” Yes, many doctors prescribe the pill for other medical reasons, but when they do, it seems to give women a license to have premarital sex or sex with a person with whom they are not prepared to share a child. Not to mention the long-range side effects of prolonged use of this drug. In other words, it enables women to sacrifice their dignity in order to satisfy the desires of a male that does not love them and is not ready to commit their life to them, or at the very least is not ready to accept the consequences of his desire for sexual intercourse with them. That is surely not a human right, but a sickening offense against human rights. So, yes, let’s make the voice of women heard. Not just of those women under the delusion that sex is recreation and children are optional, but those women who are prepared to own their own fertility as a gift rather than a punishment, to understand their body and who don’t want to have to take a drug every day so that they they man the sleep with can enjoy sex worry-free.

  11. Wow, that was good. Except that I am married with 4 kids (one with cerebral palsy) and a beagle…. if I have any more of either I might implode. And lets be real..This also means I don't want to have sex with my husband…but like many women I sacrifice my dignity on a regular basis in the name of marital peace so that my children can live in a pleasant environment. So I need to "prevent life" as do many other women so we can have some sanity and love and nurture the children we have instead of just popping them out continuously telling ourselves "I have enough attention for them all". That's great if your husband doesn't mind getting shot down in the bedroom…mine gets grumpy. Next…read the news. There are a lot of women abusing, neglecting and killing their children…yes, they need Jesus, but let's give them "life prevention" in the meantime. Life is complicated and I think you've been listening to "the men" on the panel for too long.

  12. Wow, that was good. Except that I am married with 4 kids (one with cerebral palsy) and a beagle…. if I have any more of either I might implode. And lets be real..This also means I don’t want to have sex with my husband…but like many women I sacrifice my dignity on a regular basis in the name of marital peace so that my children can live in a pleasant environment. So I need to “prevent life” as do many other women so we can have some sanity and love and nurture the children we have instead of just popping them out continuously telling ourselves “I have enough attention for them all”. That’s great if your husband doesn’t mind getting shot down in the bedroom…mine gets grumpy. Next…read the news. There are a lot of women abusing, neglecting and killing their children…yes, they need Jesus, but let’s give them “life prevention” in the meantime. Life is complicated and I think you’ve been listening to “the men” on the panel for too long.

  13. I have a real problem with people automatically associating birth control with promiscuity. The two are not the same thing. Taking a birth control pill does not necessarily mean that a woman is out having sex with everything that moves. I'm a 24 year old graduate student and I can speak from personal experience when I say that, with the exception of 3 friends, all the women that I know who are on the pill are using it for something other than sex/family planning. I also have a problem with the idea that this debate is about religious freedom. If it was solely that, then Viagra and male sterilization techniques would also not be covered. Is it morally wrong to use birth control as it is intended? Depending on an individual's belief, possibly yes. Is it lawful to push those beliefs on other people in this country, even if they claim to have the same beliefs? Absolutely not. If religious organizations do not want to cover birth control, it makes sense and that's fine. They don't have to if it is against their beliefs. But no one has the right to then permanently block a woman from obtaining something that can also have numerous medical benefits solely on the basis of that belief. What a woman does with her body and with her fertility is between her and God. Regardless of whether you look at it from a political or moral viewpoint, it is not our place to punish her or take away her God-given right of free will and choice. Politicians and religious leaders need to stick to doing what they do best and let the women and their doctors decide what is right for women's health.

  14. I have a real problem with people automatically associating birth control with promiscuity. The two are not the same thing. Taking a birth control pill does not necessarily mean that a woman is out having sex with everything that moves. I’m a 24 year old graduate student and I can speak from personal experience when I say that, with the exception of 3 friends, all the women that I know who are on the pill are using it for something other than sex/family planning. I also have a problem with the idea that this debate is about religious freedom. If it was solely that, then Viagra and male sterilization techniques would also not be covered. Is it morally wrong to use birth control as it is intended? Depending on an individual’s belief, possibly yes. Is it lawful to push those beliefs on other people in this country, even if they claim to have the same beliefs? Absolutely not. If religious organizations do not want to cover birth control, it makes sense and that’s fine. They don’t have to if it is against their beliefs. But no one has the right to then permanently block a woman from obtaining something that can also have numerous medical benefits solely on the basis of that belief. What a woman does with her body and with her fertility is between her and God. Regardless of whether you look at it from a political or moral viewpoint, it is not our place to punish her or take away her God-given right of free will and choice. Politicians and religious leaders need to stick to doing what they do best and let the women and their doctors decide what is right for women’s health.

  15. Nice work AIUSA Blog Writers – The title ("Nothing About Us Without Us" – which I recall as orginating in global south efforts to reach advocates here – is a kind reminder of the Power issues involved and ignored dramatically, by the House Committee… . I am in mild disbelief that medically prescribed, or over the counter countraception – known correctly since goddess knows when – as birth control – has become a topic of alarm and prohibition, yet again. Hangin with the advocacy to keep, uh, "birth-control-contraception (substitute chemical name if preferred)." I will hangin as well with my own advocacy for medically safe affordable birth control for women, and for women and their partners. Thanks.
    I

  16. Listen..
    I live in Sweden and women are not being heard wegot to change the hole system to manage a development in this area I do believe

  17. It is so very importent that we women stand up for our rights
    In sweden or in Nepal or in Africa it doesn´t matter.
    Everey one have to have the right to decide about hr/his detiny
    It must be a Human Right weplease have to start there and go further….

  18. Nice work AIUSA Blog Writers – The title (“Nothing About Us Without Us” – which I recall as orginating in global south efforts to reach advocates here – is a kind reminder of the Power issues involved and ignored dramatically, by the House Committee… . I am in mild disbelief that medically prescribed, or over the counter countraception – known correctly since goddess knows when – as birth control – has become a topic of alarm and prohibition, yet again. Hangin with the advocacy to keep, uh, “birth-control-contraception (substitute chemical name if preferred).” I will hangin as well with my own advocacy for medically safe affordable birth control for women, and for women and their partners. Thanks.
    I

  19. Listen..
    I live in Sweden and women are not being heard wegot to change the hole system to manage a development in this area I do believe

  20. It is so very importent that we women stand up for our rights
    In sweden or in Nepal or in Africa it doesn´t matter.
    Everey one have to have the right to decide about hr/his detiny
    It must be a Human Right weplease have to start there and go further….

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  22. Of program like your website web page but you need to have to test the spelling on various of your posts. A number of of them are rife with spelling problems and I uncover it actually bothersome to explain to the truth nevertheless I’ll certainly occur back once again.