International Women’s Day has been celebrated on March 8 since 1911, when Clara Zetkin, a member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed the yearly event that has its roots in women’s suffrage. It is good to remember that women have not always enjoyed the right to vote, the right to work in a safe environment and to earn a fair wage. Indeed, many women around the world still do not enjoy such basic rights. However, the website promoting International Women’s Day is disheartening, in that it chooses to focus on controversial – and sometimes tasteless – issues.

iwd_squareFor instance, one video highlights women staging a “topless demonstration” (with full frontal nudity) in Istanbul to protest domestic violence; it’s unclear how nudity helps protect women against violence. Another video uses a supermodel in a piece entitled “Smart is the New Sexy”. However, the video equates attractiveness with doing something about global poverty. Sexy is still sexy, and smart is about being hip and beautiful, apparently. Finally, there is a video from the Council of Commonwealth Societies called ‘Women as Agents of Change”.  This video highlights the importance of a girl’s health, education, opportunities and financial freedom.

While the educational value of the first two videos mentioned here are dubious, the third is actually spot-on: a girl should have the chance to grow up with an education, a chance for good health with nutritious food on a regular basis, and the ability to make choices about marriage and livelihood. What the makers of the video ignore is that millions and millions of girls will never get to make such decisions – because they’ve never been born.

It is estimated that there are 200 million girls missing worldwide today, due to gender-selective abortions and female infanticide. These statistics are chronicled in the documentary “It’s a Girl”: the three deadliest words in the world. The real-world implications of these missing girls in the documentary are at once overwhelming and heart-wrenching.

There is ample evidence that women in the developing world are used as human experiments when it comes to birth control medications and devices. For instance, in 1995, it was discovered that millions of women in the Philippines received what they thought was a UNICEF-provided tetanus vaccine. Unbeknownst to the women, the vaccine contained B-hCG, a chemical which permanently destroyed the women’s ability to bear children. A 2004 UNICEF program, this time in Nigeria, was meant to prevent polio, but once again, contained sterilization drugs.

In India, there is a virtual surrogacy industry: poor women having children for money for childless couples, mainly from outside India. India’s loose legal system makes the practice easy, despite many doctors acknowledging how unethical it is.

Dr. Arya spoke out against the way in which surrogate mothers were treated in India: “You have treated the surrogate mother like an object, used her as a factory.”

Today, Dr. Arya says bluntly, “Surrogate mothers are from poor backgrounds and are hardly aware of their rights. The ART law is trying to find a balance between the legal and the unethical, but unethical practices still remain.”

In the US, faith-based organizations that have served women rescued from domestic violence and human trafficking have lost millions of government dollars over the past few years because these organizations do not provide abortions or abortion-inducing drugs, mandatory services under Obamacare for receiving government funds. The recently renewed Violence Against Women Act, which seeks to aid women who are victims of domestic abuse, may disallow Catholic shelters from receiving funds (see “Violence Against Women Act: Catholic shelters need not apply?”)

New York City public schools have reportedly been handing out “morning after pills” to thousands of underage girls without notifying parents. “Morning after pills” can cause diarrhea, migraines, vomiting, allergic reactions, severe abdominal pain and ectopic pregnancy – and those are the milder side effects.

In Muskegon, MI, an abortion clinic was recently closed after numerous health-code violations were discovered: “used hypodermic needles in unsecured containers, ‘blood on the floor and walls in multiple locations’ as well as dripping from a sink trap in a patient room, and ‘uncovered buckets containing unknown fluids’ in the operating room.”

In celebrating International Women’s Day, we can certainly laud the achievements that acknowledge the value of women and uphold true human freedom. That freedom means the right to life from the moment of conception, the right to be educated, to be healthy, to receive help from agencies that have their best interests in mind, and to be free from government agendas regarding birth control, abortion and sterilization. While women have made great strides since the inception of International Women’s Day, it’s hard to let loose and make merry when so many of us are missing from the party.