By Elizabeth Petoskey, Advocacy & Policy Consultant, PSI
The global health community lost a champion today. We are saddened by the passing of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who was one of America’s greatest advocates for women’s health and reproductive rights around the world.
In his powerful role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Lautenberg fought to protect access to family planning services for women internationally. He worked hard to, despite never succeeding, permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, a policy better know as the “Global Gag Rule” which prevents foreign NGOs from receiving federal funding if they provide abortion services with private funds.
Senator Lautenberg tirelessly advocated to protect and expand the U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and to integrate family planning services in other global health and development programs.
In times of proposed severe cuts to malaria, the Global Fund and bilateral HIV/AIDS funding, Senator Lautenberg called on U.S. leadership to step up and protect these vital, life-saving programs.
One of the final bills Senator Lautenberg introduced on the floor of the Senate in April demonstrated his lasting commitment to reproductive rights and strong global health legacy that he leaves behind. The “Peace Corps Equity Act of 2013” would provide Peace Corps Volunteers with access to the same standard of health care that most women with federal health care coverage already receive, including coverage of abortions in instances of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is endangered.
Senator Lautenberg faithfully served the people of New Jersey and fought for the voiceless globally for almost 30 years. PSI extends our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Senator Lautenberg.
Sally Cowal, Senior Vice President & Chief Liaison Officer, PSI
As we celebrate last week’s inauguration and the 113th Congress’ first few weeks in session, I naturally reflect on the last couple of years. The 112th Congress was full of intense debates, a consuming election and suitably ended with a dramatic, last-minute deal on the fiscal cliff. Thankfully, global health retained strong bipartisan support during even the gravest times of political and economic uncertainty. Looking forward, PSI is encouraged by this new Congress’ potential support of global health programs.
The 113th Congress has an incredible opportunity to expand the global health progress of its predecessors. Each congressional member is in a uniquely powerful position to shape the health, and, ultimately, the future of millions of people globally. With Washington increasingly under attack, the 113th has a chance to show the American people how U.S. foreign assistance saves lives with efficient, transparent and cost-effective solutions.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee made an important decision last week when it sent the Water for the World Act for a vote on the Senate floor. The bipartisan bill cosponsored by Senators Reid (D-NV), Roberts (R-KS), Cardin (D-MD), Isakson (R-GA), and Leahy (D-VT) seeks to further support efforts that will ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation around the world.
The bill, introduced by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), will accomplish the following:
- Target underdeveloped countries with focused initiatives to improve access to clean water and sanitation;
Foster global cooperation on research and technology development, including regional partnerships among experts on clean water;
- Provide technical assistance and capacity-building to develop expertise within countries facing water and sanitation challenges;
- Provide seed money for the deployment of clean water and sanitation technologies;
- Strengthen the human infrastructure at USAID and the State Department to implement clean water and sanitation programs effectively and to ensure that water receives priority attention in our foreign policy efforts; and
- Includes a 25% nonfederal fund cost share provision to leverage philanthropic and other donor support for the programs
“Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize,” Durbin said. “Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. I hope the Senate can pass this legislation before this problem reaches a devastating tipping point.”
This Wednesday, May 9th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPs) marked up its Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 bill. The mark up set a strong bipartisan commitment to global health but divisive policy riders could potentially diminish this important support.
Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) said in a release, “This is a tough, effective national security bill that continues to cut spending, reform our aid programs, and demand accountability from our partners and allies.”
The bill allocates $8.02 billion for global health programs – reduced from the enacted $8.16 billion in FY 2012, though higher than the President’s FY13 request. This is in sharp contrast from last year when the House Subcommittee markup for FY12 proposed to reduce funding for global health by nine percent.
For the State Department and USAID, the bill proposes cuts across the board, including steep cuts to programs that focus on multilateral institution building.
Controversial provisions on the legislation include:
- Reinstating the Mexico City Policy (also known as the “Global Gag Rule”)
- Prohibiting funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
- No funding for needle exchange programs
Farai Chieza, from PSI/Zimbabwe, closes out the World Water Day 2012 reception with the US Senate by speaking about a caregiver he’s come to know in Zimbabwe. Earlier in the day, Farai participated in a round table discussion on diarrheal diseases and then conducted top priority Congressional meetings. Watch the video above to hear about the impact of unsafe water on the lives of women and families living in Zimbabwe.
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