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Monday, July 28, 2008

Congress takes First Step to Restore UNFPA Funding

Congress Takes First Step to Restore UNFPA Funding

WASHINGTON, July 17 – Renewed U.S. funding for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, moved forward in both the House and Senate this week, winning approval from two committees essential to further progress.

The Senate Appropriations Committee today allocated $45 million for UNFPA, an increase of $11 million over last year’s appropriation. On Wednesday, the influential House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations approved $60 million for UNFPA after a closed-door battle.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who sponsored the House measure, hailed the moves as “critical” for the agency’s family planning and reproductive health care programs in 140 countries. The bill, part of an overall $600 million spending measure for family planning and reproductive health care assistance programs worldwide, does not alter the existing Bush administration ban on use of the funds in China, restricting it use to specific programs with broad general support. The Senate bill mirrors the House bill in this regard.

These include providing contraceptives and safe motherhood medicine, equipment and supplies; treating obstetric fistula; and combating female genital cutting and child marriage.

The House funding, offered in a closed-door legislative markup session of the subcommittee, would ensure that UNFPA receives U.S. funds for non-China programs hereafter. The Bush administration last month withheld for the seventh straight year $40 million Congress previously appropriated for UNFPA, on grounds the agency is “complicit” in coerced abortions and sterilizations in China. UNFPA has repeatedly denied the charges and cited independent studies that found its work is “a force for good” in China.

“President Bush’s justification for withholding these funds does not hold water with his own State Department, let alone with the millions of women and children who need the vital care UNFPA provides,” said Lowey. “I will fight to protect these critical funds.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney added “The U.S. should be leading the way in providing health care to the world’s most impoverished women, children, and families. Years of backward Bush Administration polices have put us far short of this goal time and again, but the Democratic Congress is working hard to pass critical investments in reproductive health care for women in the world’s developing nations.”

Amy Coen, president of Population Action International, called the House vote “a major step forward,” noting that “the importance of investing in family planning programs has never been greater.”

CLICK HERE to read a press release from Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey.

CLICK HERE to read a statement from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from Population Action International.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from Americans for UNFPA.

New Rules Would Threaten Right to Contraceptives

Read author Cristina Page’s blog on the proposed HHS rules.
WASHINGTON, July 15 – Reproductive health advocates reacted with outrage today to a report in The New York Times that the Bush administration is proposing new rules that would discourage doctors and health-care clinics from providing birth control to women who need it. This proposed regulation deliberately confuses the definitions of contraception and abortion and could cause disarray in law, regulations, and policy.

The proposal would define “abortion” as "any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said she was “gravely concerned” that such language would “radically redefine abortion to include some of the most common and effective methods of birth control.”

Marilyn Keefe, Director of Reproductive Health Programs of the National Partnership for Women & Families, called the proposal “an ill-conceived political ploy designed to win favor from those determined to deny women basic health services.” She said it would “put politics ahead of women’s health” and “shows callous disregard for low-income women facing unplanned pregnancies.” She pointed out that 90 percent of women in America use birth control, and that the proposal to appeal to the remaining 10 percent would be “political pandering at its very worst.”

Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said the new rule would be “unprecedented” in “allowing individuals, institutions and programs receiving Health and Human Services funds to refuse to provide necessary health care services, including contraception.”

Recent research by the Women Donors Network has found that family planning opponents are only 9 percent of all likely voters, and that the rest overwhelmingly support policies and programs to expand access to safe and effective methods of birth control.

CLICK HERE to read a press statement from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

CLICK HERE to read a press statement from The National Partnership for Women & Families.

CLICK HERE to read a press statement from The Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

CLICK HERE to read a press statement from The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from The National Women’s Law Center.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

CLICK HERE to read a press release from Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.