Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced a bill on Wednesday that aims to make a compromise with the Bush Administration to end its withholding of funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and 23 other members of Congress, would mandate $34 million to the UNFPA strictly to prevent, treat, and repair obstetric fistula.
Obstetric fistula mainly affects girls ages 15-19. Approximately two million girls around the world are currently living with the condition. The UNFPA describes obstetric fistula as an injury to the pelvic organs that most often occurs when a young girl undergoes long and obstructed labor, sometimes for as long as 5 days. Often, the girl is poor and cannot reach or afford the necessary medical care, which then causes her to suffer extensive tissue damage that eventually leads to the death of the baby. Another problem associated with obstetric fistula is that the injury also causes women to lose control of their bowels and bladder unless treated appropriately.
President Bush officially withheld $34 million in funds for the UNFPA in 2002 based on unsubstantiated claims by the extremist right-wing group Population Research International (PRI) that the UNFPA supports forced abortions in China. Despite the fact that Bush’s own handpicked investigative team found no evidence to back PRI’s claim, Bush still would not release the funds to the UNFPA, which provides crucial family planning and health services to women in many developing countries, including their global campaign to end obstetric fistula.