Roundup: Bishops Plan to Confront Obama, Annual UNFPA Population Report Released

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Roundup: Bishops Plan to Confront Obama, Annual UNFPA Population Report Released

Brady Swenson

Catholic bishops vow to forcefully confront Obama on abortion; UNFPA calls for cultural sensitivity to achieve gender equality and establish reproductive rights; Uruguayan Senate votes to decriminalize abortion; Bush administration puts successful California family planning program at risk.

Catholic Bishops Plan to Forcefully Confront Obama on Abortion

The Chicago Tribune reports that, in a direct challenge to President-elect Barack Obama, America’s Catholic bishops vowed on Tuesday to accept no compromise for the sake
of national unity
until there is legal protection for the unborn:

About 300 bishops, gathered in Baltimore for their national meeting,
adopted a formal blessing for a child in the womb and advised Chicago’s
Cardinal Francis George, president of the conference, as he began
drafting a statement from the bishops to the incoming Obama
administration. That document will call on the administration and
Catholics who supported Obama to work to outlaw abortion.

The Bishops also reportedly discussed the Catholic voter guide of sorts, "Faithful Citizenship," that was distributed to members of the church prior to last week’s election.  The guide emphasized that abortion is an absolute wrong but also stated that voters should "weigh issues like poverty, war, the environment and human rights when choosing candidates." 

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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But some bishops said they were surprised to see Catholics cite the
document as justification for selecting candidates–like Obama–who
support abortion rights. A slim majority of the nation’s Catholics
voted for the Democratic candidate.

NPR has audio on the story


UNFPA Calls For Cultural Sensitivity to Achieve Gender Equality

The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, has just released the 2008 State of World Population report with chapters focusing on reproductive health and rights and building gender equality throughout the world.  The report focuses on the fact that cultures help to mould the way
people live with each other and influence their understanding of
development, building women’s rights will be easier if agents of change
remain sensitive to the local culture.

Culture is and always has been central to development. As a natural and
fundamental dimension of people’s lives, culture must be integrated
into development policy and programming.

Cultures are neither static nor monolithic…. They adapt to new
opportunities and challenges and evolving realities. What is seen as
“the culture” may in fact be a viewpoint held by a small group of
elites keen to hold onto their power and status. The tensions and
diverging goals inherent in every culture create opportunities for
UNFPA to promote human rights and gender equality, particularly when
UNFPA can partner with local agents of social change and challenge
dominant views from within the same cultural frame of reference.

Sixty percent of the world’s one billion poorest people are women
and girls; two-thirds of the 960 million adults around the world who
cannot read are women, and 70 per cent of children who do not go to
school are girls, the report says.

Agencies ignore culture
at their peril. Advancing human rights requires an appreciation of the
complexity, fluidity and centrality of culture by intentionally
identifying and partnering with local agents of change.

sensitive approaches understand and work with a community’s views: for
example, about what it signifies when a woman or a couple does not
reproduce; the effect of contraception on a woman’s ability to
conceive; or on a man’s view of what makes up his ‘manhood’.

More on this important report is forthcoming.


Uruguay Senate Votes to Decriminalize Abortion

In a move atypical of Latin American countries the Uruguyan Senate has voted to decriminalize abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.  The BBC reports:

The bill’s backers say it will reduce the number of women dying because they have to resort to illegal abortions.

But President Tabare Vazquez, himself a doctor, has said he
opposes abortion on medical and ethical grounds, and he is expected to
veto the bill.

Under the current law, women who have an abortion and the people who assist them face prison.

Abortion is only allowed in the case of rape or when the life of the woman is in danger.

The new legislation would allow women to terminate their
pregnancies in the first 12 weeks for these reasons but also under
certain other circumstances, such as extreme poverty.


Bush Administration Puts California Family Planning Program at Risk

The Bush administration is leaving California’s successful Family PACT program, which provides family planning services to women and men who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, in a tough position after issuing an ultimatum that could end the program:

severe budget crisis could worsen further if state leaders fail to
resolve a dispute with the federal government over a successful
family-planning program for the poor.

State officials say the
Bush administration has given them a terrible choice: Lose $262 million
in federal funding this year and $315 million in subsequent years, or
hire 1,300 additional workers to verify eligibility for the program,
which serves 1.65 million Californians.

A federal agency wants the state to do a better job of determining which of the clients are undocumented immigrants.

The program saves the state billions in health care costs by helping families and single men and women avoid unintended pregnancy and the corresponding health care: 

By any measure, both sides agree that Family PACT has been a success that saves taxpayers money.

state estimates the program averts nearly 170,000 unintended
pregnancies each year. That saves an estimated $1.5 billion because if
the pregnancies occurred, the state and federal governments would pay
for prenatal care, delivery and health care for the newborns.

such a clear financial benefit to the state to provide these services;
there’s fiscal reasons that even a Republican governor can love," said
Heather Estes, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood: Shasta-Diablo,
which includes clinics in Contra Costa County.

However, the Bush ultimatum would increase the cost of the program per patient from $175 to $261 and put a bureaucratic barrier to preventive care:

The federal proposal has
upset many clinic leaders who worry about how it might affect people
who may not have the mandatory paperwork.

"Once you require
documentation, you’re going to lose the patient," said Tanir Ami,
executive director of the Community Clinic Consortium, which represents
clinics in Contra Costa and Solano counties. "Teenagers, particularly,
are not going to have access to these documents.

"It’s a push for
an increase in bureaucracy, which we know is geared toward keeping
people out of the system," she said. "It’s frustrating to everyone that
the concern about dollars going to undocumented individuals is
hijacking the entire program."

Clinic leaders have been attempting to get a decision delayed until July, when the
state’s budget year will have ended and President-elect Obama will be
in office.