Despite veto threats from President Bush, the Senate approved 71 to 22 an emergency spending bill (S 2551) last week that includes language calling on the Bush administration to disburse up to $34 million already appropriated to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) - a major supplier of modern methods of contraception in the developing world. The House of Representatives approved its version of the bill – without the UNFPA language – last month. The two bills must now be reconciled.
Last year, Bush froze funds for UNFPA after Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) claimed that UNFPA violates U.S. law by operating a small program in China that engages in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. The UNFPA vehemently denies these allegations – which are unsubstantiated to date – and a 2001 State Department report noted that the program instead encourages Chinese officials to “address family planning and reproductive health issues solely through the use of voluntary measures.” The Bush administration last month sent a three-member team to investigate whether UNFPA is in compliance with the "Kemp-Kasten" law, which bars US aid to family planning programs involving coercion. The team has returned, and is expected to release its findings later this month.
UNFPA operates in over 130 countries across the globe providing maternal and child health programs, family planning programs, and programs aimed at the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV-AIDS. The UNFPA estimates that if the Bush administration manages to block the agency’s funding altogether, it could lead to as many as “2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths.”
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. . . .