"A society that denies and demeans women's rights and roles is a society that is more likely to engage in behavior that is negative, anti-democratic and leads to violence and extremism," Clinton said at Planned Parenthood Federation of America's national conference in Houston.
Clinton spoke to the organization after being honored for her work on behalf of women's health and reproductive rights. She was endorsed by Planned Parenthood during her unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
She told the conference women's reproductive and health rights will be key issues in President Barack Obama's foreign policy.
As the award was given, demonstrators stood outside the George R. Brown Convention Center to protest. More than 1,000 people reportedly showed up to make their voices heard. Some carried signs with slogans such as "abortion is murder."
Only a few hours earlier, Clinton had been in Washington, D.C., for President Obama's announcement he was deploying 4,000 more U.S. military troops into Afghanistan as part of an effort to defeat al-Qaida terrorists in that country and in neighboring Pakistan.
"As we integrate our military and civilian assets with a mission for disrupting and defeating al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we cannot lose sight that assisting women's development in those countries is part of America's strategy to be successful," she said.
Clinton said there are models tied to infant mortality rates that can predict which regions in the world experience political upheaval.
"Countries with higher infant mortality rates are more susceptible to political upheaval," she said. "It's connected to a lower quality of life and a lower quality of life is a byproduct of inadequate health care and inadequate family planning options."
Clinton said she was grateful for being given Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger Award -- the organization's highest honor. It is named after the group's founder.
A short video before Clinton's speech highlighted some of her work in support of women's reproductive and health rights, including:
-- A 1995 speech Clinton delivered while first lady during the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing in which she criticized China, without naming it directly, for the practice of sterilization and forced abortion, and for preventing many women from attending or participating fully in the conference.
-- Her efforts in 2006, when she was a U.S. senator from New York, to block the confirmation of then President Bush's nominee for Food and Drug Administration commissioner until the FDA approved over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill.
Clinton's visit to Houston capped off a busy week of travel for the secretary of state.
Earlier this week, she visited Mexico for two days after President Obama's administration pledged to send more money, technology and manpower to secure the border in the U.S. Southwest and help Mexico battle drug cartels. While in Mexico, Clinton pledged the U.S. would stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Mexico in its violent struggle against the cartels.
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