Global Reproductive Justice in 2019: Our Very Survival Depends on It

Dr. Susan M. Blaustein
4 min readJun 3, 2019

With America choking off access state by state to reproductive health care for millions of women, it’s hard to think beyond these infringements on our own rights to think about the state of reproductive justice in the rest of the world.

A postnatal check-up in Haiti, with WomenStrong founding member H.O.P.E.

Yet, globally, there’s much to celebrate. The prioritization of maternal health in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals galvanized the nearly 50-percent reduction of maternal mortality between 1990–2015, as the numbers of prenatal visits, births attended by skilled health attendants, and women using contraceptives rose worldwide.

Nevertheless, the world still has a long way to go before all women have equal access to reproductive care. Every 90 seconds a woman loses her life to preventable childbirth-related complications, including, most lethally, hemorrhage, hypertension, unsafe abortion, and sepsis. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur on the Global South, where contraception and safe abortions are often unavailable. Millions more women who survive childbirth endure serious complications, including infertility and fistula.

These gross inequities begin well before childbirth. Across the life cycle, infants, girls, and women in low-income settings are at a profound disadvantage. From infrequent prenatal, post-natal, and pediatric check-ups; to the lack of access at the onset of puberty to vital reproductive health information and menstrual health and hygiene products, to the continuing prevalence of child marriage, impoverished or otherwise vulnerable girls and young women are deprived of both medical attention and the information that can help them get the care they need.

Compounding these privations, women’s and girls’ freedom, too, is taken from them — the freedom to decide whether to continue with their own education and/or to pursue a career, when, whether, and whom to marry, whether and when to have children, and how many. Given their limited access to adequate information, health insurance products, and quality clinical care across their lifespans, maternal survival is by no means assured for low-income and otherwise marginalized women in the developing world.

To address these tough challenges, the international community has again prioritized reducing

Dr. Susan M. Blaustein

Founder & Executive Director of WomenStrong International. Director of Millennium Cities Initiative at Columbia University.