State Department Withholds Funding for World Health Organization
The State Department recently decided to freeze $3 million in funding appropriated by Congress for the World Health Organization’s research on mifepristone (also known as RU-486 and the “abortion pill”). Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), along with eight other members of the House of Representatives, sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell last week to express their concerns that the State Department is using an overly broad interpretation of a 1985 law to justify withholding US funding from international organizations.
The law, commonly referred to as Kemp-Kasten, prohibits US funds from being used to finance or support abortions abroad, according to Common Dreams. In recent months, a broad interpretation of this law was used to withhold $34 million appropriated by Congress for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) because of its work in China, despite the fact that the Bush Administration’s own handpicked team of investigators found no evidence that the UNFPA supported any coercive abortion or sterilization programs. In fact, funding for the UNFPA from the US is always prohibited from being used on UNFPA programs in China.
Maloney and the other House members express their concern in their letter to Powell that using the same overly broad interpretation of the law, funding for other international programs that work with Chinese health ministry and family planning programs could also be in jeopardy, including $120 million to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), $108.1 million for the World Health organization, and $792.4 million for the World Bank. “We want to know that the Administration is not jeopardizing UNICEF, WHO and other important UN programs because of a small group of anti-choice zealots,” said Maloney in a statement released by her office. “The Administration’s overly broad interpretation of Kemp-Kasten could cripple more reputable UN programs that provide life-saving services to women and children around the world.”
This recent move by the State Department follows threats by the Bush Administration to back out of a landmark 1994 population policy if the terms “reproductive rights” and “reproductive health services” were not removed from the language of the agreement. The Cairo program shifted the world’s approach to reducing rapid population growth away from coercive, numbers-based programs to voluntary family planning programs that at their core were about empowering women to make choices and have control over their lives. Bush’s threat was met with immediate criticism from several countries facing the most rapid population growth in the world, including India and 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. . . .