International Leaders Oppose USAID Move to Restrict Contraceptive Access in African Countries

International sexual and reproductive health and rights leaders today spoke out against the Bush administration’s directive to African governments to refuse to provide contraceptive supplies to clinics run by Marie Stopes International, the international family planning provider. Over 140 world leaders registered their opposition in a letter to Kent Hill, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Global Health at USAID.

International women’s health leaders spoke out:

"How can the U.S. turn a blind eye to the damage this decision
will inflict upon the health and rights of women and families in
countries like my own?" stated Bernice Heloo, President of the Society
of Women Against AIDS in Africa, based in Ghana.  "What do they say to
these women who are poor and underserved and who desperately wish to
delay or prevent childbearing–‘too bad, you have to find someplace else
to go’?"

"This decision has sent shockwaves across the world," said Mabel
Bianco, Director of the Foundation for Studies and Research on Women in
Argentina.  "Leaders globally are outraged that the U.S. government is
playing politics with the lives of women in developing countries by
subverting public health interventions that reduce maternal deaths."

The Bush administration has gotten domestic criticism, too. On October 2, women’s health champion and Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Committee Rep. Nita Lowey challenged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the USAID determination. "I believe we should bolster programs that prevent unintended pregnancy, abortion and the spread of disease," Rep. Lowey wrote.

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