Apr 14, 2004
Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort break a deadlock with the Administration over international family planning funding and end the horrible problem of obstetric fistula, Rep. Maloney (NY-14), along with 10 Members of Congress, sent a letter today to President Bush urging him to fund United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) global campaign to end fistula and support HR 3810, Repairing Young Women’s Lives Around the World. (PDF of letter) The Members have struggled against the Administration over UNFPA since 2002, when the Bush Administration first withheld the United States’s contribution to the organization.

“We are coming to the table with an honest compromise that will change the terms of the debate from perpetual disagreement to a perpetual victory for women around the world,” said Maloney. “This Administration has advocated ‘compassion’ and aid to Africa, and this is a chance for the President to act.

“This bill is about saving lives - of both mothers and their babies. Nearly every baby dies when a woman goes through days of agonizing labor. This legislation prevents that from happening, saving both mother and child. With the President’s support, we can pass this bill and save hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Rep. Maloney introduced HR 3810, which would mandate $34 million to UNFPA specifically to prevent, treat and repair obstetric fistula, a horrific and debilitating condition found predominantly in Africa. Since 2002, the U.S. has de-funded UNFPA - an organization that has launched a global campaign to end fistula and works in 140 countries around the world. The Administration took this action because of what it claimed was support of forced abortions and sterilizations - claims that were debunked by the Administration’s own fact-finding team. This new bill aims to strike a compromise with the Administration and bring an end to the U.S.’s refusal to fund an organization that helps save the lives of women and their babies.
Two million women worldwide, many of which are in Africa, suffer from obstetric fistula. It is a condition brought on during labor without medical attention that leads to infant mortality, and serious urinary and bowel problems for the mother. Fistula is easily prevented with proper obstetric care during pregnancy and was eradicated from the United States long ago, yet it still afflicts women - particularly young women between the ages of 15 and 19 - in the poorest of nations.

Earlier this year, UNFPA and EngenderHealth released a report, Obstetric Fistula Needs Assessment: Findings from Nine African Countries. This study examined hospitals in Africa, and their ability to treat cases of fistula and found that many additional resources are needed for adequate fistula care.

List of Members who signed the letter:
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, Rep. Joseph Crowley, Rep. Major Owens, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Lane Evans, Rep. Ed Towns, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Rep. Donna M. Christensen, Rep. Louise Slaughter.