House Undermines Women's and Girls' Health and Rights – AGAIN

A partisan showdown over women’s health and rights on Wednesday, October 5 focused on UNFPA during a committee mark up of Rep. Renee Ellmers’ (R-NC) bill to halt all US funding to the agency.  Republican opposition to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is based on opposition to programs to protect health and rights – not as a budget savings measure.  Here’s how we know.  The Democratic minority in the committee offered 10 amendments – each designed to enable continue funding to UNFPA for specific activities.  Each amendment was defeated.  The amendments were to

  1. prevent and treat obstetric fistula (Rep. Gerry Connolly – VA) – failed 21-12
  2. provide services in disaster situations (Rep. Karen Bass – CA) – failed 21-13
  3. provide services to those in vulnerable situations, including water, sanitation and gender based violence (Rep. Donald Payne – NJ) – failed 23-14
  4. programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Rep. Donald Payne – NJ) – failed 23-14
  5. support safe childbirth and emergency obstetric care (Rep. David Cicilline and Rep. Allyson Schwartz – PA) – failed  22-13
  6. prevent female genital mutilation (Rep. David Cicilline – RI) – failed 21-13
  7. prevent child marriage (Rep. William Keating – MA) –  failed 20-15
  8. support family planning services (Rep. Chris Murphy – CT) –  failed 22-14
  9. stop forced and coerced abortions and sterilizations marriage (Rep. William Keating – MA) – failed 22-16
  10. support programs in Haiti (Rep. Gregory Meeks – NY) – failed  22-16

IWHC values and appreciates the leadership shown by these champions, as well as by Chairman Howard Berman and others for their statements and actions in support of women’s health and rights.  The State Department, in answer to a question during a press briefing about the House vote, also stood firmly behind UNFPA and its work.

IWHC urges Rep. Ellmers and her supportive colleagues to heed the words of Rev. Rebecca Quimada Sienes, founder of Buhata Pinaythe, a women’s organization in the Phillipines that focused on education, health and safety, livelihoods and political expression.  She and her colleagues continue their work because they know  “it is essential to help poor women have access to health services such as family planning, HIV/AIDS, etc. It is necessary so that they will have better life.”  She wrote to the policymaker, saying “It is very sad to know that you are sponsoring H.R. 2059 blocking USA funding to UNFPA. I believe it is a wrong move for anybody to do this. I urge you Rep Ellmers to withdraw your bill because we, in Asia particularly the Philippines, believe in what the UNFPA is doing to the world’s poorest citizens.  Please hear the call from the 64 & 74 years old women!”

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