Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ipas calls on US President-Elect to be Global Leader for Women's Rights

Ipas calls on U.S. president-elect to be global leader for women’s rights

Ipas welcomes Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Under President-elect Obama’s leadership, the new administration will be able to restore the United States to the forefront in the global movement to promote women’s reproductive health and rights. Ipas calls on the new administration to take early action to rescind the Global Gag Rule, eliminate abortion funding bans and meet our international commitments to protect women’s health.

“More than 500,000 women have died from unsafe abortion during the eight-year tenure of the Bush administration because they have not had access to comprehensive reproductive health care,” said Elizabeth Maguire, President and CEO of Ipas. “President-elect Obama has an opportunity — and we believe the passion and commitment — to make a huge difference for women’s reproductive health and rights.”

President-elect Obama can take three steps almost immediately following his inauguration to dramatically improve women’s health:

1. Rescind the Global Gag Rule. The Global Gag Rule disqualifies private organizations in the developing world from U.S. funding if they engage in any abortion-related work, even if they engage in this work with their own funds. Eliminating this ban will allow family planning programs to expand their work preventing unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, re-open clinics and outreach services, and enable health-care experts to freely participate in debates to improve health policies for women.

2. End ban on U.S. funding for abortion care. A 1973 law named after Sen. Jesse Helms blocks U.S. foreign assistance from being used for abortion care, referral and advocacy. These activities are legal in the United States and virtually all aid-recipient countries. The Helms Amendment severely limits effort to reduce maternal mortality in countries like Nepal. In 2002, Nepal legalized abortion to reduce maternal deaths and injuries from unsafe abortion. Without the Helms Amendment, U.S. foreign assistance could play an important role in training and equipping health care providers to provide safe abortion care, saving tens of thousands of lives and dramatically reducing unintended pregnancy. In the past decade, another 15 countries have expanded the grounds for legal abortion; the United States should support their efforts to prevent deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions.

3. Rejoin the global community and support international efforts to improve women’s access to family planning and safe abortion care. Before the current Bush Administration, the United States helped shape international agreements that were both essential for women’s health and rights and consistent with fundamental American values and constitutional principles. President-elect Obama can demonstrate his commitment to international cooperation by restoring funding to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, to support the critical work that agency does to promote voluntary family planning and maternal health in 150 countries. Furthermore, we call on President-elect Obama to work with global partners to transform the international agreements the United States has forged and signed into real, lasting improvements for women’s health and rights.

“Ipas’s partners and colleagues around the world — women and health-care providers and policymakers — are eager for new leadership from the United States,” said Maguire. “In the years to come, we are confident that the new administration will provide that leadership. The lives of millions of women, girls and their families are at stake.”

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Ipas is an international organization that works around the world to increase women's ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, and to reduce abortion-related deaths and injuries. We believe that women everywhere must have the opportunity to determine their futures, care for their families and manage their fertility.

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