March 8, 2016 marks International Women’s Day and as obstetrician-gynecologist we are dedicated to quality care of women throughout their lives. We know that gender-equality is a great issue for women here in the U.S. and around the world.
As women’s health care providers, we know many of the things that help women to achieve parity. One, of course, is reproductive autonomy. The ability to control if and when to become pregnant helps women to finish their educations, progress in their careers, and pursue their life goals. This cannot be emphasized enough, but unfortunately, millions of women around the world lack reproductive control.
The theme for the 2016 International Women’s Day is #PledgeforParity. I view this theme as making two important statements: one is that women, despite gains, still do not enjoy the equality that they deserve. The other is that we all must actively take a stand, and we can do so by signing the pledge and by joining the discussion on social media.
At the same time that we are spending International Women’s Day working toward the goals of inclusive cultures and gender-balanced leadership, we cannot lose sight of the countless disenfranchised women around the world – those who are left behind in the education system; those who live each day under the spectres of war, widespread rape, financial insecurity and intimate partner violence; and those who are the victims of human trafficking here and abroad. We also know that as climate change continues to impact our world, women will be disproportionately affected and at elevated risk of disease, malnutrition, sexual violence, poor mental health, lack of reproductive control, negative obstetric outcomes, and death.
To further shed light on these issues and create meaningful discussion amongst our membership, ACOG’s Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting in May, will have multiple programs on the topic of human trafficking, including a lecture by a survivor and a review on how to identify and respond to victims of human trafficking in the health care setting. There will also be a Lunch with the Experts and small group discussion on Domestic Violence and Health.
In the U.S., women’s reproductive rights are under attack at the state and the federal levels. Women are being criminalized for suffering from addiction during pregnancy or for acting on their own desperation when facing an unintended pregnancy. They live in fear of sexual assault. This is unacceptable, and as advocates for women, we must take a stand.
I admire the mission of this International Women’s Day, and I plan to take the #PledgeForParity, here. I encourage you to do the same as a sign of our commitment to the women we serve. But I also urge every one of us to remember that we also have a role to play in the exam room to ensure that our patients are safe, are healthy, and are truly well.