The House Committee on International Relations yesterday passed an amendment that would provide $100 million over the next two years for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The amendment to the FY 2004 foreign operations authorization bill (HR 1950) passed by a narrow margin of 23-22 in the Republican-dominated committee.
Co-sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), the funds provided by the amendment would more than cover the $34 million President Bush withheld from the UNFPA last year. Bush made the decision to withhold the funding from the UN organization based on allegations by the right-wing Population Research Institute that UNFPA programs in China support coercive family planning policies. These allegations were denied by the UNFPA as well as a State Department fact-finding team. The US contribution to the UNFPA makes up 13 percent of the total funding for its international family planning programs - enabling UNFPA to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death.
"This legislation has to do with not punishing women," Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle. "These are vital, life-saving funds." Meanwhile, the 34 Million Friends campaign, a grassroots movement to raise money for the UNFPA, announced its first million earlier this week.
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. . . .