Note #9187 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:
06151 March 9, 2006
PC(USA) joins Washington rally in support of family planning bill
'This program is not just about abortion, as some would say. It is about health care'
by Toya Richards Hill
LOUISVILLE - The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joined a host of other denominations on Capitol Hill Wednesday (March 8) to call attention to women's and children's health and to support international family planning legislation.
Participants in the event, scheduled on International Women's Day, included the PC(USA)'s Washington Office, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Episcopal Church and the National Council of Jewish Women.
"I join with other church leaders to say we support international policies that undergird and strengthen the lives of women and the families they nurture," said the Rev. Susan Andrews, pastor of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, MD, a former PC(USA) moderator. "Women are best able to nurture others if they are also nurtured by societies where their rights are respected, supported and advanced."
Wednesday's event included a news conference and an interfaith worship service, as well as a call for support of the Focus on Family Health Worldwide Act, a bill now being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.
The bipartisan bill, HR 4188, would reauthorize and gradually increase funding to voluntary family planning programs administered by the United States Agency for International Development, (USAID), said the Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, director of the PC(USA) Washington Office.
"There really aren't enough co-sponsors on the bill right now," she said. "And there's no Senate counterpart right now; it's just in the House."
"We are encouraging people to be responsive to this" by writing and calling their legislators and also urging the president to include family planning programs in his budget, Giddings Ivory said.
"If you support the health needs of women, you strengthen the country, you make the need for foreign aid and intervention less, you protect children and you make women healthier," Andrews said after the event. Her comments echoed points made by several others during the program.
Rabbi Scott Sperling, director of the Union for Reformed Judaism Mid-Atlantic Council, said more than 500,000 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, 99 percent of them in developing countries. He said about 10.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year, often from conditions related to low birth weight or complications of pregnancy.
"We are here to speak out for the fundamental rights of women to live lives of health and opportunity," Sperling said.
Andrews pointed out that "in recent years, the United States has not funded the United National Population Fund (UNFPA) with its previous contribution of $34 million."
"This leaves millions of women around the world with fewer resources for a wide range of reproductive services provided by this program," she said. "This program is not just about abortion, as some would say. It is about health care."
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