House Foreign Affairs Committee Votes to Defund UNFPA
Yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted along party lines to pass a bill to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The vote was 23 to 17, with all 23 Republicans present voting to block US funding to UNFPA and all of the Democrats voting against the measure.
Such cuts would be detrimental to programs for women and children. According to the Huffington Post, "If the U.S were to give $50 million to the UNFPA in 2012 [it] could prevent 7,000 maternal and newborn deaths, provide surgeries to 10,000 women afflicted by an obstetric fistula, and offer contraception to about 1 million couples who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it."
Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) stated, "Tragically, the bill takes aim at poor women and children in the developing world - women and children who all too often suffer from the effects of disease, war, rape, and a host of absolutely horrid conditions that few of us can even begin to imagine. Rather than helping these desperate people - as UNFPA seeks to do - the legislation makes them pawns in a debate over social issues that often seems divorced from reality." Berman proposed 10 amendments to continue UNFPA funding for life-saving programs and programs in countries plagued by natural disasters or conflicts, including amendments that would provide funding for water and sanitation and to prevent gender based violence and female genital mutilation.
House Republicans claim that their desire to defund the UNFPA stems from the organization's support of China's one-child policy, which requires women obtain abortions and sterilization. However, Sarah Craven, chief of the Washington branch of the UNFPA, denied these claims, stating, "Not a dime of U.S, money goes to China, and not one dime goes to abortion." An investigation conducted by the State Department, which found "no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization," supports Craven's assertion.
Media Resources: Statement of Howard Berman 10/5/11; Huffington Post 10/5/11
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .