On this International Women’s Day, our thoughts turn to the women around the world who are denied reproductive justice and basic human rights.

For women in Central and South America and the Caribbean, the spread of the mosquito-borne zika virus has caused a spike in cases of microcephaly and other neurological disorders linked to an epidemic of birth defects. The virus has particularly affected women in areas where sexual violence is prevalent and in which many women do not have access to birth control. In much of Central and South America, abortion is illegal. In Brazil, abortion is illegal except in very limited circumstances. The response to the zika virus of public health officials, advising women to avoid becoming pregnant, is unacceptable.

The fact that women may be faced with unwanted pregnancies and have virtually no control over whether they become pregnant or whether they can continue a pregnancy evokes feelings of desperation and helplessness. It should not take extreme circumstances such as the spread of disease to create the conditions for improved access to reproductive justice.

On January 5, 2016, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) proudly announced its support for a legal challenge to Prince Edward Island’s discriminatory and unlawful abortion policy. LEAF is providing litigation support and initial funding to a grassroots women’s organization, Abortion Access Now Prince Edward Island (AAN PEI), to bring this challenge. AAN PEI seeks full and unrestricted access to on-Island, publicly-funded abortion services for PEI women.

Whether in Latin America or Canada, women should be entitled to equal access to health care. Whether in Latin America or Canada, women should be entitled to make decisions about matters of profound importance to their own physical and psychological integrity. Whether in Canada or across the globe, women’s rights are human rights.

On this International Women’s Day, LEAF stands in solidarity with women in Latin America, PEI and everywhere else that denies to women the equal rights to which all human beings are entitled. In his 2016 message for International Women’s Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states: “Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.”

We couldn’t agree more. At LEAF, we are committed to engaging in advocacy to promote and protect women’s equality rights and we are proud to support AAN PEI’s challenge to PEI’s abortion policy. PEI is the only province in Canada that does not provide access to abortion to women in their home province. PEI women are entitled to equality and dignity along with all other women.

We’ll continue our advocacy. We ask that you please write to your elected representatives to encourage them to have the political will to ensure that abortion access is safe and local, wherever we may live. Please support LEAF and AAN PEI to raise the funds for this important legal challenge.

Best wishes from LEAF for a happy International Women’s Day!

For more information visit www.leaf.ca or contact us at [email protected] or 416.595.7170 or toll-free 1.888.824.5323.