When people get themselves all riled up when the term “reproductive rights” comes up, it’s usually only about abortion.  What many of us forget is that having control of when women (and sometimes girls) have children and how many children they have is the key to make things better for everyone economically around the globe.  And that includes a whole lot more than just abortion.

Secretary of State Hillary Clintont spoke at length this week about why it is crucial to support global reproductive rights, and it has more to do with economic stability and advancement than it does with anything else:

Even here at home, I’m just one little example.  I am thankful everyday that when I started college, I was able to get birth control pills — not because I was sowing my wild oats, but because I got married for the first time when I was 19.  As I’ve written before, that might be a good age for some, but it wasn’t for me.  Things did not go well and I was equally happy that I was able to get out of a very bad marriage in a pretty short time.

I often wonder what would have happened to my life if I had had a child in that marriage — would I have been able to finish college?  Go to law school?  Have pretty successful stints in journalism and the law?  Maybe.  But more likely not.  How I am doing economically today is a direct result of the fact that I had control over my reproductive destiny.

Clearly, my situation as an American woman is nothing like that of the majority of women around the world, some of whom are described in the recent book, Half the Sky.  These are the types of women who really need our support when it comes to promoting global reproductive rights so their meager economic circumstances can start to climb a little bit and we can help women and families — and our global economy — get on a positive path.

Women’s rights ARE human rights.  I’m sad that there are so many in the world who still don’t think so.  But if we could take these rights seriously and accomplish something by 2015, we can all be proud of that.

(And I still wonder what it would be like to have a President who was as committed to this is Clinton is.)