In the midst of these challenging times for women in the U.S. and around the world, women have risen up as some of the strongest voices of dissent. We have spoken, we have marched, we have persisted. And today, women across the U.S. will strike as part of a #DayWithoutAWoman.
We're living through a major flash point in the ongoing effort to secure women's health and rights around the world. So this International Women's Day, let's take a moment to celebrate women and look at where things really stand for women's health and rights.
From the millions of women who marched the day after inauguration in what was reported to be the largest act of resistance in U.S. history, to the demonstrations at airports and town hall meetings across America, millions of women have shown their defiance against politicians who would take away women's and civil rights. We were inspired by the seas of pink overflowing the streets during the Women's March - not just in Washington, but in Boise, Portland, Dallas, and towns around the country. The march was an affirmation of the principle that are all connected - we are women, immigrants, refugees, transgender people, Muslims, and so much more. Best of all, the millions who marched that day are determined to keep the momentum going.
Yet despite this strong showing around the country and the world, it seems everywhere we turn, extreme politicians are creating new hurdles for women seeking health care. Even though we know that blocking patients' access to health care at Planned Parenthood is both dangerous and deeply unpopular, Congress introduced a bill Monday night to do just that. The truth is that this bill would have a disproportionate effect on the people who already face structural barriers to care, including people of color, immigrants, young people, and members of the LGBTQ community. Those with overlapping identities face multiple barriers.
We're also seeing these attacks play out globally. Mere days after the historic march, President Trump's administration reinstated an expanded version of the global gag rule, which not only slashes family planning funding, but affects global health assistance writ large, including vital, lifesaving health programs addressing HIV/AIDS, Zika, maternal and child health and more. A problem many had once assumed was restricted to the reproductive health community has become a problem for everyone in the global health community.
Through it all, women have been and will continue to be at the forefront of the resistance to these harmful policies and more. We're encouraged by the bold leadership on display from girls as young as six-year-old Sophie Cruz, who led a rousing incantation of "si se puede" at the march in January. While others talk about building a wall, Sophie is hard at work building bridges as she shares her family's experience as undocumented immigrants. When the administration enacted a Muslim ban, Muslim and non-Muslim Americans alike stepped up with fierce critiques not only of the policy, but the often Islamophobic and racist rhetoric surrounding it.
In countries around the world, others are defending the very right to call themselves girls and women - like Cleopatra Kambugu, a transgender woman who was forced to flee Uganda when she was painfully outed in a national media outlet there after the passage of an extreme anti-gay law. Cleo is now living in Kenya, where she is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and inclusion. Women who already held high positions of power are using their stature to champion others, as Lilianne Ploumen did when she founded the She Decides initiative to mitigate the catastrophic impact of the global gag rule. While President Trump's administration plays politics with the lives of vulnerable women around the world, Lilianne is raising funds to protect as many lives as she can by increasing access to comprehensive reproductive health care.
In her "Sikh Prayer for America", Valarie Kaur asked: "What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?" New leaders have emerged out of the maelstrom of the day, and more will come. This year, on International Women's Day, we celebrate the defiant women leading the resistance. We need to have each other's backs. We cannot give in to the threats and intimidation. We fight. We resist. We defy.
Cecile Richards is President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Latanya Mapp Frett is Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Global
HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today
Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org