Abortion Advocates Ask Obama to Increase Reproductive Health Funding by More than a Billion Dollars

In a memo that was never meant for public viewing, a coalition of abortion advocacy groups have submitted a 55-page memo to President-elect Barack Obama outlining policy recommendations to advance “reproductive rights” in the first 100 days of the new administration. Recommendations include major funding increases, repealing policies that have any limiting effect on organizations from being able to engage in abortion advocacy abroad and enshrining reproductive health rights in the legal system.The coalition laments the “ideologically-driven government restrictions” that, according to abortion advocates, have put reproductive health services out of reach for millions of women over the last eight years and urges president-elect Obama to “articulate and implement a vision for a new, commonsense approach to the nation’s and the world’s pressing reproductive health needs.” 

The coalition is asking President-elect Obama to “signal to the world that the United States is prepared to reclaim its historic leadership” on reproductive health matters by increasing foreign assistance while at the same time removing restrictions.

Among the immediate policy recommendations, the abortion coalition wants taxpayer funding restored to groups that promote or perform abortions overseas. Reinstated in 2000 by President George W. Bush, the Mexico City Policy bars organizations that receive federal funds from performing or actively promote abortion in other nations.  The coalition charges that this “global gag rule,” “has stifled the public debate in developing countries” that have strict laws on abortion. 

In other funding matters, the coalition is asking for the new administration to increase funding for international family planning programs to $1 billion, arguing that “more than 200 million women in the developing world wish to delay, space or complete childbearing, but do not have access to modern contraceptives.”  According to Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser these fiscal demands would increase federal spending for reproductive health and abortion by $1.5 billion. She calls it “the big abortion bail-out.”

The abortion coalition is demanding that the new president immediately restore funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). President Bush has withheld the US’ contribution to UNFPA for the last seven years because of evidence that the organization is involved in and supportive of the Chinese one-child policy that includes forced abortions and sterilizations. The coalition not only demands that UNFPA funds be restored, but that Obama also include $ 65 million for UNFPA in his first budget to be submitted to congress. 

The abortion coalition also wants the new president to enshrine reproductive health rights in the US legal system, calling on Obama to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and to select judicial nominees who demonstrate a commitment to “individual liberties, and the fundamental constitutional right to privacy, including the right to have an abortion.”

The memo was submitted by 50 well-known abortion rights advocacy organizations, including: Catholics for Choice, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Guttmacher Institute, International Planned Parenthood Federation, International Women’s Health Coalition, Ipas, National Organization for Women and Population Action International.

The memo is open for comment on the Obama transition team website at: http://change.gov/open_government/entry/advancing_reproductive_rights_and_health_in_a_new_administration/.

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