Sexual and reproductive health rights statement

June 15, 2020

Plan International USA believes that all children, adolescents and young people deserve to be protected from harm and to lead safe and healthy lives.

They have the right to make their own free and informed choices over their sexual and reproductive health and lives, free from coercion, violence, discrimination and abuse. Girls and young women, in particular, are often denied the ability to exercise these rights and, as a result, can face serious medical, personal, economic and social consequences.[1] Fulfilling the rights of all children, adolescents and young people is fundamental to achieving gender equality.

Plan’s sexual and reproductive health programs seek to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights in all circumstances, including in humanitarian settings, given the increased risks, particularly for girls and young women, during crises. Unfortunately, gender inequality and discriminatory social norms mean that girls, adolescents and young women often lack the voice, agency and autonomy to make their own decisions with regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights and are frequently denied access to quality reproductive health information and services, leaving them vulnerable and unable to protect themselves from unintended or unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Girls and young women in the countries where Plan works are also frequently subjected to serious harm and human rights violations, including sexual exploitation, child marriage and female genital mutilation. Unintended pregnancies can often be a consequence of these violations of girls’ and women’s fundamental rights, with pregnancy and childbirth a leading cause of death for girls 15 to 19, in many cases due to complications from unsafe abortions. 

Oftentimes when access to safe abortion and modern contraception is restricted or criminalized, abortion rates and unintended pregnancies have actually increased. Recent studies have found that abortion rates rose substantially among women in sub-Saharan African countries with high exposure to the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy[2] relative to countries less exposed to the Policy.[3]

Plan does not administer or fund any abortion services. Plan does believe that priority should be given to avoiding unintended pregnancy through the provision of comprehensive sexuality education and access to youth-responsive sexual and reproductive health services. Evidence has shown that sexual health education does not lead to an earlier onset of sexual activity, but rather can delay the age of first sexual experience and have a positive impact in terms of safer sexual practices. Our assistance is never dependent on participation in a family planning program or use of specific contraceptives. Plan has earned a reputation with local communities built on respect and trust, facilitating change in harmful cultural norms that opens more opportunities for girls, young people, women and other marginalized individuals. Engaging boys and men, as much as girls and women, as agents of change is key to challenging dominant norms of masculinity, and to developing equality, safety, respect and responsibility in relationships.

For more detailed information concerning Plan’s position on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), please see Plan International’s complete position paper.

 

[2] Formerly known as the Mexico City Policy and often informally referred to as the “Global Gag Rule.”

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