Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bush Screws Women Globally: Still Gagging on the Rules

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

802 words

Now that Gore's got his Oscar, and Barbara Boxer's in charge of the Environment and Public Works Committee, a safer home for those cute little arctic seals is practically in the bag. But what about that other endangered category: women?

Since George W. Bush took office in 2001 imposing his global gag rule, we've been crushed between the rock and the hard place with no end in sight.

The gag rule cuts off U.S. funds to any foreign organization making any mention of abortion for any reason, no matter where the funding for those services came from. So even mention abortion among a hundred other things, and women in developing countries can kiss goodbye prenatal care and cancer screening and open their arms wide to the half a million women that will die this year during pregnancy or childbirth -- from largely preventable causes.

That's the rock. The hard place is the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which does do some good in providing money for treatment and prevention of AIDS in developing countries, but again has a crushing provision that a full one-third of the prevention money go to programs preaching only abstinence.

For Bush, sex workers are garbage. Girls that aren't given the chance to say "no" are crap along the side of the road. Girls forced to marry young are what you scrape off your shoe. Women that already have HIV and have no means to prevent transmitting it aren't even on the map.

When are we going to roll that back?

Is it even on the agenda of the macho Dems when the bad news from Iraq takes half the newspaper every day, and the other half is consumed by presidential wannabees grunting at each other while garden variety torture cases barely get a mention. If another Abu Ghraib was uncovered now, or even if anyone wanted to follow-up on the old one, they'd have to wait in line behind whatever Hillar-Ama brainfart hits the stands next.

There's been little coverage of that lug José Padilla, the "enemy combatant" from Chicago that could barely spell his own name, but was nabbed in 2002 and thrown in an army brig for supposedly coordinating more deadly attacks. He's finally come up for trial and it turns out they tortured him so much he's almost completely insane. Forget poor women dying slowly of AIDS, or during deliveries.

I even resent all the coverage of Academy Awards, though Helen Mirren won best actress and I've had a crush on her for ages, except during her recent incarnation as the pin-curled, blue-rinsed Queen.

If I had my druthers it would other women on the front page this morning, all the forgotten ones dying and at risk, and the handful trying to do something about them.

As it turns out, overturning the gag rule is on the Democratic agenda, kinda, just not far up enough to make it to most newspapers. On January 22, Democratic Representative Nita Lowey from New York re-introduced the timeworn Global Democracy Promotion Act expressly devoted to overturning the gag rule. A couple of weeks ago, California's Rep. Barbara Lee, re-introduced the Pathways Act, which would remove the requirement that one-third of PEPFAR AIDS prevention programs be abstinence-based.

The problem is neither bill will go anywhere this time either. Even if the new clench-fisted, testosterone stoked Dems suddenly admitted sympathy for the problems of women, Bush would veto the bills anyway.

Pressure probably won't come from outside, either. Dr. Margaret Chan, the new director-general of the World Health Organization has announced that women's health is one of her top priorities, but she also seems to be courting America's Big Pharma in recent comments in Bangkok criticizing Thailand for challenging intellectual property laws to develop generic AIDS and cardiac drugs.

Will she turn a blind eye to the United States' global gag rule and PEPFAR policies that are based on moral crusades than good science and public interest? WHO knows?

Sexual and reproductive health worldwide is a mess. According to a global study published in the British medical journal the Lancet last November, international aid for family planning dropped from $560 million in 1995 to $460 million in 2003.

We need Helen Mirren to return, not as queen, but President, a kind of unsmiling, childless, tough-as-nails Inspector Tennyson to defend the rights of women.

Hillary is tough, and Pelosi, too, but I don't like seeing the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives doing photo shoots with a grandkid on her hip. She's being the dog that rolls over to expose her belly and show how non-threatening she is to all the male voters out there. Yeah, I understand the game, but it creeps me out.

Show your soft side long enough, some wolf'll rip it to shreds.

Visit Kelly Sans Culotte at http://kellyatlarge.blogspot.com.

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