As we finish celebrating a week that brought the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and a renewed commitment from President Obama to tackle climate disruption and women's equality, protesters are gathering in Washington, D.C., for the 40th annual "March for Life."
The rally -- which attracts religious leaders, school children bussed in from across the country, and anti-choice activists to voice opposition to abortion access and other reproductive rights -- is ironically named. In fact, it's a departure from the real "march for life" that women and girls all over the world must make to meet their basic needs. Every day, across the world, young girls walk miles to attend secondary school, adolescents risk stigma and violence to walk to a family planning clinic in a neighboring town, and mothers are forced to venture further and further from home to find clean water for their families. Livelihoods and health depend on those "marches for life" -- and they demand immediate global attention.
Increasingly, domestic and international organizations like the Sierra Club are recognizing that these struggles for health and welfare are intricately connected -- that a woman's level of access to affordable contraceptives is innately tied to her ability to adapt to a changing climate; that the opportunity to attend school and delay marriage impacts community resource management and economic vitality.
Last summer, at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed this link in her conference address by saying that "to reach our goals in sustainable development, we also have to ensure women's reproductive rights." In other words, healthy families are essential to thriving communities, and a sustainable planet depends on both.
Last week, a group of women diverse in age, race, and background gathered at the National Center for Science Education Conference to discuss the links between gender and climate, and the essential role women play in climate disruption and adaptation. The week before, a panel at the Woodrow Wilson Center highlighted the need to connect family planning with larger development goals on a policy and governance level, specifically enumerating the centrality of reproductive health and rights to sectors like agriculture, climate, and education. A great piece exploring themes from the event is available here.
As we reflect on a week characterized by a celebration of choice, a dedication to tackling climate disruption, and the attempt of some to "march for life," let us not forget the real marches for life made every day by women across the globe. We know the burden of these marches would be lessened by addressing health access, sustainable development, sexual rights, and the impacts of climate disruption in tandem. That would be something worth celebrating.