Women Leave Rio+20 Motivated to Galvanize Sustainability Around Family Planning and Reproductive Rights
There is a direct correlation between access to voluntary family planning, women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability. And though the official delegates to last week’s “Earth Summit” tried to water it down, thousands of grassroots activists (left) made it one of the biggest issues to rock Rio+20, as the event was also called.
Why? Because ensuring that women have full reproductive rights creates one of the most desirable “two-fers” on the planet. Complete access to voluntary family planning is among the quickest, simplest, and most affordable ways to improve women’s quality of life. It is also one of the most direct, immediate and cost-effective ways to reduce climate change. In fact, studies show that slowing population growth by giving women access to the contraception they already want could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 8 and 15 percent [PDF] — roughly equivalent to ending all tropical deforestation.
Women took these issues to Rio because more than 200 million women in the U.S. and around the world cannot choose whether or when to have a baby, simply because they don’t have access to voluntary family planning. Groups like the Global Fund for Women and International Planned Parenthood Federation spent several days last week making their case, button-holing delegates, meeting with celebrities, blogging and Tweeting, and protesting in the streets.
In the end, as Grist reported, the Rio+20 outcome document – though 49 pages long and consisting of 23,917 words – mentions women in less than 0.01 percent of the entire text. And only two of the 283 sections addressed women’s needs for family planning. Of the seven priority areas of discussion at the summit, none included language endorsing the idea that access to contraception is a basic human right. In fact, language to that effect was specifically removed from earlier drafts of Earth Summit recommendations, primarily at the insistence of the Vatican, which interprets endorsement of reproductive “rights” as endorsement of abortion.