The defeat last week of a bill aimed at combating the practice of child marriage was nothing less than shameful. After the Senate passed the measure unanimously, House supporters of the bill assumed that House passage was a done deal. The bill, however, failed to get the 2/3rds votes needed to pass it under an expedited House procedure.
What supporters of the bill failed to anticipate was a last-minute attack by the Republican leadership alleging that the bill would fund abortions. It would do no such thing. It would simply fund programs aimed at curbing the practice of child marriage in countries like Yemen, where young girls in rural areas are often married off at the age of 9 or 10.
For anyone concerned about the sanctity of life, let them reflect upon the maternal deaths, the obstetric fistulas, and miscarriages that result when young girls are impregnated before they are old enough to safely bear children. That’s why child marriage is a recognized violation of human rights. And, unfortunately, the practice is widespread. An average of 25,000 girls a day become child brides, and unless something is done to change this trend within the next 10 years, over 100 million girls in the developing world will become child brides.
Before this Congress adjourns on January 4, the House of Representatives should bring the child marriage bill (S. 987) to the House floor under normal procedures that would allow its passage by a simple majority.
Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President