The Washington Post reported late last week that President George Bush will likely eliminate the $34 million appropriated by Congress for the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA). Withheld since last January because of allegations by an anti-abortion group that the UNFPA promotes forced abortions and sterilization in China, the loss of funds 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,” according to UNFPA estimates. “It’s the women in 142 developing countries, including Afghanistan, which the White House purports to care about so much, who are going to suffer as a result of $34 million less going to prevent maternal death, infant death and abortions,” explained Susan Cohen, director of government affairs for the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
Despite a 2001 State Department report noting that the program encourages Chinese officials to “address family planning and reproductive health issues solely through the use of voluntary measures” and a letter from four House members urging Bush to release the funds, an administration adviser said senior officials “expect [the funds] to be permanently withheld,” according the Washington Post. The administration sent a 3-member team to China to investigate the claims. Although the group returned several weeks ago, the results of their investigation have yet to be released. An official announcement on Bush’s decision about the UNFPA funds is expected after the team announces its findings in mid-July.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) told the Washington Post: "We believe strongly that the programs work, that they merit US support and that we should not be so dictatorial to tell the UN not to do that…We would use whatever legislative tools are available to us." The UNFPA operates in more than 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.
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. . . .