In a narrow defeat for women across the world, the House voted 216 to 211 to block an amendment to this year's foreign aid bill that would have provided $100 million over two years in international family planning funds. Co-sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), the measure was an attempt to counteract Bush's decision to block $34 million in funds last year. Bush refused to follow Congressional approval to allocate these funds because of allegations by the right-wing Population Research Institute that UNFPA programs in China used coercive family planning policies - allegations that were later disproved by a State Department fact-finding team.
Crowley decided to help lead efforts to reinstate these funds after he spoke with a birthing assistant in Malawi, who asked for kerosene so she could see during her patients' labor and clean razor blades so that she could cut umbilical cords, according to the Washington Post. "That had a profound impact on me," Crowley told the Post. "It's not about abortion...It's more than about providing contraception. It's about child survival and maternal survival."
US contributions to the UNFPA make 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. The failure of the United States to fund the agency, which offers family planning services in more than 140 countries "means more unnecessary and unsafe abortions, increased cases of HIV/AIDS, more girls suffering from fistulas and female genital mutilation and more women dying in childbirth," said Phyllis Oakley, chair of the United States Committee for United States Population Fund, as reported by Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Reports.
To replace government funds, the 34 Million Friends campaign is a grassroots movement that has sprung up in the US to raise money for the UNFPA. It announced its first million 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. . . .