Grading the Bush administration in four areas — its emergency plan for HIV/AIDS, global women’s rights, international family planning and support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) — the organisations argued that the president sometimes makes all the right noises but rarely follows up by taking the correct steps.
The groups — Feminist Majority, Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) and the Centre for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) — said ideology, not evidence, is driving Bush’s performance in these areas, and predicted that hundreds of thousands would turn out at the march Sunday to protest his approach.
For the first time since the marches began in the 1970s, this year’s event will focus on international issues, said Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.
”U.S. policies are now not only adversely affecting women domestically, but they’re probably having their greatest negative impact worldwide,” Smeal said.
”We used to say, ‘if we lose (abortion rights) women will die’. You will not hear that at this march. You will hear, ‘women are dying, are being injured, because it is now driven home how devastating these policies are’,” she added in a telephone press conference from Washington.
Quoting U.N. figures, Smeal told reporters that 80,000 women die annually worldwide from unsafe or botched abortions, while 500,000 die because of a shortfall in funding for family planning programmes.
While the Bush administration cannot be blamed for all of those incidents, ”many of them could be averted with decent reproductive health care,” she added.
Instead, Washington has politicised family planning to the extent that some organisations working in the developing world are refusing to accept U.S. money because it means they must promise to not provide or even mention abortion services, Smeal argued.
”One of the sad stories we hear is that some agencies (won’t) treat women who are very ill or dying from botched abortions for fear” of retaliation from U.S. funders. ”They cannot afford to lose any of the money they have.”