Population Matters

The War on Women Continues

July 28th, 2011

The war on women marches on.  Planned Parenthood was not defunded, but the attack on women around the world has not let up. Last week the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked-up and passed a State Department authorization bill that would seek to legislatively reinstate the global “gag rule”.  The gag rule, which President Obama repealed by executive order in January of 2009, prevents the U.S. from funding any group internationally that even supports abortion rights, a restriction that has severely hurting family planning providers working overseas.

Yesterday the House State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee marked-up and passed the appropriation bill for the State Department and U.S. foreign assistance programs for FY2012. The bill included language that would reinstate the gag rule. According to Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY):

The global gag rule – which would be unconstitutional in the United States – inserts a controversial policy into private and deeply personal conversations between a woman and her healthcare provider.  It muzzles doctors and nurses throughout the world who work for entities receiving any U.S. assistance – even in places were abortion is legal.  In real world terms, that means an expectant mother who has walked six hours while bleeding to reach the only health clinic in the region may not get the life-saving care she needs – or even a referral.  Or consider the village where the only health provider must close without U.S. assistance, denying a full range of care – including, for example, HIV screenings and treatment – to the entire local population.

However, the committee did not stop with just imposing the global gag rule; they also reduced U.S. funding for international family planning programs by $154 million, a 25% cut, and eliminated all funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Both of these actions would have very devastating real world consequences to the lives of women around the world.

According to the Guttmacher Institute a 25% cut in international family planning funding would result in:

  • 9.4 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services
  • Almost 3 million more unintended pregnancies
  • 1.3 million more abortions (mostly unsafe)
  • 1.3 million more unplanned births
  • 7,700 more maternal deaths
  • Over 35,000 more orphans

Both of these bills still need to be voted on by the full House and Senate so there is time to tell Congress that the lives of women around the world are not something to fight ideological battles over.

Make your voice heard. Tell Congress that you support women and international family planning funding by signing the “Million for a Billion” petition, which tells Congress that the U.S. needs to boost its appropriation to at least $1 billion this year if the UN’s  goal of universal access to family planning and reproductive health programs is to be achieved by 2015: http://www.millionforabillion.com

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

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