Statement by Valerie DeFillipo, President, Americans for UNFPA
On the House Foreign Affairs Committee Passage of HR 2059
October 5, 2011
Today the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passed H.R. 2059, a one sentence bill that moved to permanently defund UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. Despite consistent efforts by UNFPA supporters in the House to amend the bill, the vote came down along party lines.
The proponents of this bill have been circulating misleading information about the purposes and activities of UNFPA. Based on false pretense, and an ideological attack on international family planning, the House Majority continues to take every possible step to set a precedent that no U.S. contribution shall ever go to UNFPA.
A campaign of misinformation around UNFPA practices is based on allegations that run counter to the mission of UNFPA and the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). To be clear, UNFPA does not support coercion in family planning, coercive abortions or forced sterilizations anywhere. UNFPA does not support a “one-child policy,” instead UNFPA advocates against it. In reality, UNFPA promotes voluntary family planning and opposes all forms of coercion, targets or quotas. UNFPA’s core programs help mothers survive pregnancy and childbirth, and deliver healthy newborns.
We face an uphill battle, a battle that compounds the challenges faced by women around the world who already struggle for access to contraception, health care, education, safety and security. This is a battle to which we refuse to concede.
We now turn to the Senate and the U.S. Administration to assure that women’s lives will not be compromised. Amid misperceptions and falsehoods, UNFPA continues to play a critical role to ensure that no woman dies while giving life. UNFPA is one of the first responders on the ground when natural disasters and emergencies hit, and it is all too often one of the only organizations focused on the special needs of women and girls. In the midst of emergencies, UNFPA works to protect maternal health, prevent HIV, provide psychosocial support, and help ensure the security and dignity of women and girls. Between 2003-2010, UNFPA provided assistance and care to 20,000 women afflicted with the devastating injury acquired while giving birth, known as obstetric fistula. UNFPA also works to end FGM by educating communities and working to change social norms and cultural practices, by leading women and men in communities to unite to protect the rights and health of women and girls.
Just yesterday, I was on the Hill with Ms. Juliana Konteh, Executive Director of Women in Crisis Movement from Sierra Leone and Ms. Savithri Wijesekera, Executive Director of Women in Need. We met with Members of Congress, the State Department and many Americans have heard and responded to Ms. Konteh, Ms. Wijesekera and firsthand accounts about the vitality of UNFPA funding following civil war in Sierra Leone and the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. Throughout our meetings, Juliana and Savithri received well-deserved recognition and support for their tremendous contributions to women’s health and dignity- contributions made possible largely in part to funding from UNFPA.
When discussing the urgency for continued U.S. support for UNFPA, Ms. Konteh explained “While the civil war ended ten years ago, we in Sierra Leone are still in the midst of war—a war on poverty, a war on illiteracy and a war on women. UNFPA is an essential partner in rebuilding the lives of women and girls in my country, and around the world.”
The loss of U.S. funding would have a tremendously negative effect on the lives of many women, men, and young people in the world's poorest nations. UNFPA estimates that with a U.S. contribution maternal and newborn deaths can be averted, women afflicted by fistula can have surgical repair, and couples can benefit from modern methods of family planning thus preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. I ask you, how can anyone in good conscience turn a blind eye to the women of the world who need us most?
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