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Bush’s War on Women Joined by a Congressional Coalition of the Cruel

July 15, 2003

The following statement by Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, is in response to the 216-211 vote today in the U.S. Congress denying funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“Is there anyone remaining in America—other than the ultra conservative right wing and the nation’s 300 Roman Catholic bishops and George Bush—who believe that family planning for the world’s poor women and couples is a bad idea? One would think not. But in spite of the unprecedented outpouring of public support for such funding over the last days and months, including dozens of newspaper editorials, letters of support from the unexpected (hundreds of religious leaders) as well as the usual suspects (women’s groups and family planning advocates), the U.S. Congress has voted 216 to 211 to pass the Smith-Oberstar-Hyde amendment, striking the Crowley amendment that would have restored funding to the UNFPA.

Unfortunately, the Congressional effort to ensure family planning funding for poor nations led by Catholic representative Joseph Crowley has failed and Bush’s War on Women has been joined by a coalition not of the unwilling, but of the cruel.

Members of Congress who vote to deny family planning funding for the United Nations Population Fund are playing politics with the lives and health of developing countries’ women and children. Increasingly, the public policy process is tainted by misinformation emanating from the White House. In this case, the White House along with anti-family planning congressional leaders have falsely charged, yet again, that UNFPA has been involved in coercive practices in the family planning program in China. That charge has been credibly countered repeatedly by experts and parliamentarians worldwide. UNFPA in China and throughout the world is a beacon of hope and health for the world’s families. For the U.S. Congress to deny UNFPA the funds it needs to save women’s lives is tragic as well as dishonest. And downright cruel.

We are convinced that people of faith throughout the U.S. will work to restore UNFPA funding, however long it takes. We are launching an effort to expand contributions to UNFPA from the religious community as a temporary stop-gap to ensure that they have access to safe voluntary family planning in spite of the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration.”