Are the war on terror, women’s reproductive rights?

06/13/09 Mary Glenney
From A Woman's Point of View

After witnessing the impact of President George W. Bush's reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, Michelle Goldberg, journalist, author, and longtime critic of Bush's policies on sexual and reproductive health, decided that a book about the global battle for reproductive justice was long overdue. So she wrote The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World.

The cover art depicting a woman holding the Earth on her shoulders is more than appropriate for this deeply-researched, historically-informed examination: 50 years worth of research about four continents has convinced Goldberg that women's oppression is at the crux of many of the world's most intractable challenges. She illustrates how U.S. policies act as a catalyst for or an impediment to women's rights worldwide. She also puts forth a convincing argument that women's liberation worldwide is key to solving some of our most daunting problems.

"Underlying diverse conflicts - demography, natural resources, human rights, and religious mores - is the question of who controls the means of reproduction," she writes. "Women's intimate lives have become inextricably tied to global forces." She says that even as Bush railed against [abuses against women in] countries like Iran and Sudan, his administration was working with both of them to thwart or roll back international agreements on women's rights and health.

She says that although her book is about the realm of reproductive and women's rights - "that doesn't mean that I think it's the only realm that's important, or that it's not connected to other systematic problems. At the same time, you're never going to get a less stratified economic system as long as women are oppressed. It's fascinating how much research there is showing the connection between women's rights and economic development. Giving women more control over their bodies and their lives is one of the most important things you can do to fight poverty. One of the things I hope this book does is show how that works."

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