As has become the norm in any debate that includes programs for women, an amendment to further restrict abortion access and discussion was central to the Senate Foreign Relation Committee’s mark up of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) on December 14. On a party-line vote of 11-8, Democrats defeated Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) attempt to pass an extreme anti-abortion amendment based on the global gag rule, barring organizations that receive funding under the act from using their own funds to perform or advocate for abortions and would have restricted “any activity or effort to alter the laws or policies” related to abortion.
This sweeping language would, for example, keep U.S. government officials from engaging in international conferences – the G-8 or G-20 or at the United Nations – if participants we going to discuss the implications of unsafe abortion on maternal mortality, or if officials from other countries that receive US assistance were describing their own efforts to increase access to safe abortion services.
What is perhaps the most concerning about this latest barrage is that during debate of a bill to increase U.S. efforts to prevent and provide support for survivors of violence, some policymakers felt that the way they could best contribute is to expand abortion restrictions beyond those that have been in law for years.
IWHC applauds the leadership of Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Kerry (D-MA) in supporting women’s health and rights, ensuring committee support for the status quo rather than additional abortion restrictions.
IVAWA was passed out of committee on a party-line vote – though the full Senate is not expected to debate it before the session of Congress ends.