Maloney Reintroduces Bill to Aid International Prevention and Treatment of Obstetric Fistula

Dec 15, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) today reintroduced The Obstetric Fistula Prevention, Treatment, Hope and Dignity Restoration Act, legislation that would assist the estimated two million women worldwide suffering from obstetric fistula. Obstetric fistula is a preventable and treatable condition resulting from prolonged labor in the absence of skilled medical assistance. As a longtime champion for women’s health, Congresswoman Maloney has introduced some iteration of this vital legislation since 2004.

“More than 2 million women worldwide suffer with obstetric fistula. Beyond the physical and psychological effects of this condition and the stillbirths that commonly result, mothers with fistulas are often ostracized by their families. The United Sates can and must take a leading role in the effort to eradicate obstetric fistula so that no other woman should suffer from this preventable condition.

“Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has taken steps to callously restrict access to healthcare for women and children around the world, putting them unnecessarily at risk. Under the leadership of the incoming Biden-Harris Administration, we must act immediately to reverse these harms. We must repeal the global gag rule and restore funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA provides maternal care for women living in regions plagued by conflict or disaster and is a major partner in the fight against obstetric fistula, and we need to do our part to fund their efforts. Lives are depending on it.”

Background

The Obstetric Fistula Prevention, Treatment, Hope and Dignity Restoration Act would help treat and prevent obstetric fistula by giving the President the authority to advance:

  • Education for women and medical practitioners worldwide about ways to prevent obstetric fistula. This would include topics such as appropriate ages for pregnancy, healthy spacing between pregnancies, and comprehensive prenatal care.
  • Medical interventions that can prevent fistula, such as skilled attendance during labor and childbirth and emergency obstetric care for women who experience complications during delivery.
  • Treatment by surgeons and medical professionals to repair fistulas for women in the developing world.
  • Rehabilitation services to help women fully heal and reenter society.

Obstetric fistula results from prolonged, obstructed delivery without skilled medical attendance. During delivery, the infant’s head presses against the woman’s pelvis, creating a hole that develops between the woman’s vagina and rectum leaving her without control of her bladder and/or bowels for the rest of her life if untreated. It often also results in a stillbirth. Many women with obstetric fistula are abandoned by their husbands and shunned by their families because they are considered "unclean." Ninety percent of cases can be repaired with a surgical procedure.

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