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GOP War on Women Goes Global

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The GOP war on women has gone global. Contained in the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by the House of Representatives, among the severe cuts in publicly-funded domestic programs affecting corporate oversight, legal aid for the poor, food safety, community health centers, education and teachers, police and firefighters (and on and on), are another set of drastic cuts and policy changes that would most severely affect women living in poverty and the children that depend on them.

The CR cuts funding for voluntary international family planning assistance by 15 percent at a time when the need for voluntary family planning grows, and when the U.S. fair share of global family planning efforts is estimated at well over $1 billion.  

It eliminates -- in fact it forbids -- funding for the United Nations Population Fund.

And it reinstates the Global Gag Rule

It is the same multi-prong strategy being used at home in the rash of bills and funding cuts now moving through Congress:

One, stigmatize and isolate basic reproductive health services, thereby undermining one of the most effective public health interventions in human history.  Two, eliminate funding for these same services, thereby denying women the right of self-determination to safely, effectively, and voluntarily decide whether, when and with whom they have children, to protect themselves from or get treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and reduce their access to already grossly limited opportunities for screening for cervical and breast cancers.  Three, shame women for their very desire to protect their own reproductive and sexual health and make choices as individual, thinking human beings.  And four, do everything possible to eliminate access to safe abortion services despite the fact that, by existing law, no U.S. funding supports said services and despite the fact that cuts in family planning programs will result in more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions, increasing deaths and illnesses among women.

Complications of pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortion are among the leading causes of death among women ages 15 to 49 in many countries worldwide. At least 358,000 women die every year from maternal causes and many times that number face disability and illness, undermining their own lives and those of their families.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week, Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) expressed his deep concerns about these policies to Secretary State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who responded in turn by underscoring the damage final passage of the CR containing these cuts and policies would have on women worldwide, on global health, and on the health of U.S. citizens.

This is in fact not a new war launched by the GOP, but a long-term guerrilla operation of which Congressman Chris Smith, Congressman Mike Pence, and Congressman Joe Pitts have been the tribal leaders. Now that they are in the leadership in the House, and buoyed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and groups such as Focus on the Family representing fundamentalist evangelicals, these Congressman and their allies are launching a full-scale war on women that transcends borders.

These are not the only cuts contained in the Continuing Resolution in the category of "Makes No Sense."

Among other things, the CR also cuts funding for global HIV and AIDS at a time when the rate of new infections in some countries has begun to climb and millions remain in need of treatment for AIDS-related illnesses.  Women represent half of those infected with HIV worldwide and more than 60 percent of those infected in Africa. It cuts the general account for development assistance -- which includes agricultural support, rural development, basic education, environment, energy, science and technology, and other programs related to long-term development -- by at least 30 percent from current levels, and 40 percent less than the president's request.

These cuts to basic services benefiting the poor, and particularly poor women, will not reduce the deficit, will not create jobs, and will not improve the future prospects of the United States.

"Secretary Clinton hit the nail on the head," said Congressman Carnahan.

"Studies show that women's health programs -- particularly those that protect pregnant women from preventable health risks -- are essential to building strong economic partners," Carnahan continued. "In an increasingly interconnected world, those goals are essential.  Hamstringing our international health programs will only make America less secure and halt our economic growth."

In light of the GOP's focus on cutting programs that actually save money, you can be forgiven for thinking that making the US less secure and halting economic growth might actually be the goal of the Republican and Tea Parties in Congress.