LEADERS AND ACTIVISTS FROM 57 COUNTRIES TO MARCH FOR WOMEN’S LIVES
Arlington, VA -- The March for Women’s Lives in Washington this weekend will show that women’s sexual and reproductive rights have enough national and international support to be untouchable by any politician wishing to stay in office, march leaders said today.
Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority, one of seven sponsors and 1,400 groups taking part in the Sunday march, told a news conference at the National Press Club that the event will create “another ‘third rail’ of politics, like Social Security” and discourage attacks from conservative critics. Representatives of women’s groups from 57 countries will march behind their flags to affirm the global need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive rights, she said.
Funding cuts for international family planning programs and restrictive aid policies of the Bush administration have caused “mayhem” and a health care crisis in developing countries, where up to half of available hospital beds are taken by women “suffering and dying from complications of childbirth or from unsafe abortions,” Smeal continued. “The Bush administration is now blocking aid to education and democratic free speech.”
Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), said the marchers are “extremely disturbed” by what she called “an unholy alliance between the Bush administration and the Vatican to destroy women’s lives and women’s aspirations.” They will lobby Congress after the march to register their views, she said.
Ana Kumar, executive vice president of Ipas, which combats abortion-related deaths, noted that 70,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions because of legal barriers, technological shortages and social stigma. All the deaths are “entirely preventable,” she said, “but the U.S. government is on the other side.”
Elfriede Harth of CFFC’s European branch noted that the European Union had contributed $32 million in 2002 to the UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund to “help fill the decency gap” of the Bush administration’s withdrawal of $34 million for the agency. “It could have been an increase instead,” she said, and called for restoration of U.S. funding. Canada donated another $4 million to the agency, which supports family planning and reproductive health programs in 140 countries.
In Portugal, Ireland, Poland and Malta, abortions are illegal and punishable by jail terms, said Helena Pinto, president of Portugal’s UMAR women’s advancement association. “We are a modern country, but on this issue we have medieval laws,” she said. Teresa Lanza Monje of Bolivia, regional director of Catholics for the Right to Decide, said maternal mortality rates are rising in her country, where women have an average of five children each, because of U.S. funding cuts and restrictions on family planning programs that receive U.S. aid.
A complete delegation list is available at www.planetwire.org.
The 57 countries represented at the March for Women’s Lives include:
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