Bush Withdraws Funds for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction
President Bush recently rejected $5.1 billion in Emergency Supplemental Appropriation funds approved by Congress, including $174 million for reconstruction and refugee assistance in Afghanistan, according to Interaction and Care organizations. Among the funding eliminated by this veto is $2.5 million for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which is slated to build women’s centers in each of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces providing health care, education, and vocational programs for Afghan women and girls.
Bush’s veto comes at a time when only a fraction of the $4.5 billion in aid promised by international donors has been provided. The United Nations World Food Program announced this weekend that they have been forced to cut rations for millions in Afghanistan because international donors have not provided the funds needed, UN officials said. Approximately six million Afghans will need food aid over the next year, according to UN figures. The World Food Program is short of more than $90 million or 200,000 tons of food, Reuters reported.
Bush decided to veto these funds after Secretary of State Colin Powell made a commitment last month to step up disbursement of aid to the war-torn nation. The United States has delivered around $400 million in emergency assistance, but with most of it for humanitarian assistance through the UN and other nongovernmental organizations – and very little to assist the Afghan government with reconstruction. The cost of reconstruction of Afghanistan is estimated at $14-18 billion over the next decade.
Meanwhile, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted to increase funding (both humanitarian and reconstruction funds) and the expansion of international peacekeeping troops right before the summer recess. A similar bill allocating a smaller amount of funding was approved by the House in May.
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. . . .