Members of Congress Call for UNFPA Funds to Be Released
House Foreign Operations appropriations subcommittee chair Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) urged President Bush to begin spending the $34 million Congress slated for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and cautioned him that if funds were not spent, “There would be consequences.” Kolbe and his counterpart in the Senate, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), emphasized that funding UNFPA was, according to Kolbe, “clearly the intent” of Congress. President Bush put a temporary hold on the UNFPA funds after intense pressure from anti-abortion members of Congress led by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus. Smith claims that the UNFPA “has been the willing ‘enabler’ of massive human rights violations” in China and is complicit in oppressing women in the country by supporting forced abortion and sterilization. The UNFPA has denied that it funds any programs that perform forced procedures.
UN officials have criticized the Bush hold saying that it could deny thousands of women worldwide vital family planning services. Without U.S. funding, UNFPA estimates that its ability to prevent 800,000 abortions and the deaths of 4,700 mothers and 77,000 children under the age of five will be severely compromised. Notably, Smith is attempting to block all UNFPA funding and is not specifically targeting funds that would be funneled into China.
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. . . .