This week Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) successfully amended the State Department funding bill for fiscal year 2018 to preserve funding for the position of Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues for which funding had been originally excluded. The amendment was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.
The ambassador-at-large heads the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, which since 1955 has worked to promote the rights of women and girls and include their experiences and perspectives in all diplomatic missions.
In a statement, Shaheen said, “Women and girls represent 50 percent of the global population. Their empowerment and protection must continue to be a top foreign policy priority of the United States. It’s both practically and symbolically important that the position of Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues is maintained to prioritize gender issues in U.S. foreign policy.”
So far the Trump administration has failed to appoint anyone to serve in the position of ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, a fact that seems to be in line with administration’s policy positions that consistently disregard the challenges faced by women and girls around the world.
One of the most egregious foreign policy actions the Trump Administration has taken against women has been the reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule, a deadly policy that forbids international nongovernmental organizations (NGO) receiving US global health funding from providing, counselling, advocating or even referencing abortion, even if these activities are conducted with non-U.S. funds.
Unlike previous iterations of the Global Gag Rule, most recently under President George W. Bush, Trump’s Global Gag Rule applies to all U.S. global health accounts, not just family planning programs. The expanded rule impacts upwards of $9.5 billion in US global health assistance, and effects programs providing a range of services including initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS, Zika, malaria and more.
Marie Stopes estimates that Trump Global Gag will lead to the deaths of more than 21,000 additional women over the next three years. It is estimated that over 50,000 women a year already die from unsafe abortions around the globe. According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, 800 women die every day from preventable pregnancy related causes.
Senator Shaheen is a consistent advocate for global women’s issues in the Senate and is the sponsor of the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act, which would permanently revoke the Global Gag Rule.
Media Resources: Senate Office of Jeanne Shaheen 7/27/17; US State Department; Center for American Progress 7/6/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 3/9/17