Analysis Abortion

UPDATE: In “Shameful Act,” Republicans Kill Bill to Prevent Child Marriage

Jodi Jacobson

Last night, the House Republicans banded together at the last minute on purely specious grounds to defeat legislation aimed at preventing child marriage worldwide.

Update, correction, and clarification: An error in this article was corrected at 10:11 p.m., Friday December 17th.  The original version of the article stated that the vote count in the bill was 244 – 166.  The correct tally is 241 – 166. To clarify, that is 241 votes in favor of the bill and 166 votes against.  The bill required a two-thirds majority to pass.  According to a statement by Congresswoman Betty McCollum,  229 Democrats voted for this bill as well as 12 Republicans.

Nine Democrats voted to defeat the bill, including Rep. Frederick Boucher [D, VA-9], Rep. Travis Childers [D, MS-1]Rep. Jerry Costello [D, IL-12], Rep. Tim Holden [D, PA-17]Rep. Marcy Kaptur [D, OH-9], Rep. Daniel Lipinski [D, IL-3], Rep. William Owens [D, NY-23], Rep. Nick Rahall [D, WV-3], Rep. Gene Taylor [D, MS-4]. Some of the Democrats and Republicans that voted against the bill in the end had actually co-sponsored it. Several of the Democrats listed above are members of the Blue Dog Coalition (e.g. Childers, Holden, Rahall, and Taylor).

The following Democrats inexplicably voted to abstain, including my own Congressman, Chris Van Hollen. Rep. Robert Berry [D, AR-1], Rep. Emanuel Cleaver [D, MO-5], Rep. Diana DeGette [D, CO-1], Rep. Barton Gordon [D, TN-6], Rep. Deborah Halvorson [D, IL-11], Rep. Phil Hare [D, IL-17], Rep. Eddie Johnson [D, TX-30], Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy [D, OH-15]Rep. Carolyn McCarthy [D, NY-4], Rep. John Olver [D, MA-1], Rep. Solomon Ortiz [D, TX-27], Rep. Charles Rangel [D, NY-15], Rep. Bobby Rush [D, IL-1], Rep. John Salazar [D, CO-3], Rep. John Tanner [D, TN-8], Rep. Christopher Van Hollen [D, MD-8]. 

In an act that Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said “brought shame to Capitol Hill” last night, the House Republican leadership banded together at the last minute, and on purely specious grounds, to defeat a piece of legislation six years in the making aimed at preventing child marriage worldwide. The bill was supported by a wide-ranging coalition of groups including the International Women’s Health Coalition and CARE-USA.

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An estimated 60 million girls in developing countries now ages 20 to 24 were married before they reached the age of 18.  The Population Council estimates that the number will increase by 100 million over the next decade if current trends continue.

Child marriage, noted Durbin, is often carried out through force or coercion.

It deprives young girls – and sometimes boys – of their dignity and human rights.  In some countries, it is not uncommon for girls as young as seven or eight years old to be married. These young victims are robbed of their childhoods. In addition to denying tens of millions of women and girls their dignity, child marriage also endangers their health.  Marriage at an early age puts girls at greater risk of dying as a result of childbirth. Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for women 15 to 19 years old in developing countries.  Their children also face higher mortality rates.

Ending child marriage is an important human rights goal in and of itself. It also is one of the key factors in reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS, reducing maternal and infant deaths, improving family health, and encouraging economic development. In the words of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN):

No girl who is 11, 12, 13 and 14 should be forced to marry a man years or decades older. Yet, millions of young girls in the world’s poorest countries are forced into marriage every year – sold and traded like a farm animal, raped by their husbands, and forced into lives of servitude and poverty.

With the goal of eliminating this practice worldwide, Senator Durbin joined with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to introduce the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, requiring the U.S. government to develop an integrated, strategic approach to combating child marriage by ensuring more effective us of existing resources. The bill also seeks to promote the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of women and girls.

As we reported earlier this week, the bill, S. 987, passed unanimously in the Senate (all 100 Republicans and Democrats), and was sent on to the House yesterday for final passage.

And as soon as it landed there, the Republican leadership set out to defeat it.

First, just after noon yesterday, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to House Republicans forcefully urging them “to oppose the Senate bill, S. 987, the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010,” when it comes up for a vote today in its current version.”  (See below for the full text).

This letter then went on to argue–without merit–that the bill would cost $108 million and urged votes for a “new” alternative bill crafted by Ros-Lehtinen.

In fact, S. 987 is an authorizing bill and contains no new funding. Rather, the bill was purposefully crafted to make the most effective use of existing U.S. international assistance by ensuring effective coordination among various development efforts.  As I wrote the other day, the bill:

seeks to ensure that our policies and funding are comprehensive, coordinated, and have the maximum effectiveness in ending a serious violation of human rights while promoting development goals on which we have labored for decades.

Later in the day, at 6:53 pm just before the vote was to be held, Eric Cantor’s office sent out a “whip alert” to Legislative Directors of Republican offices, which now also contended that they should vote against the bill based on “pro-life” concerns.

What “pro-life” concerns?  I find it literally impossible to say, since for one thing the bill itself seeks to protect and promote the life, health and survival of girls who are being married as young as age eight, and for another thing the bill, in that it seeks to prevent child marriage in the first place did not address the needs of already-married girls and young women who for obvious reasons otherwise need access to reproductive health care.

Congressman LaTourette (R-OH) admonished his party’s leadership for voting down a perfectly reasonable bill that could have helped girls achieve a future they want.

Let me repeat: This bill seeks to prevent children from being married and by extension from forcing young girls into sexual relations in a custom that is nothing but a blatant abuse of human rights.  I would think if you called yourself “prolife” you might well be interested in preventing the marriage of a child bride such as the one pictured above as part of the slideshow.

But in their “abortion under every bed” mindset, Cantor and Ros-Lehtinen instructed their colleagues to vote against the bill because:

There are also concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that promote and perform abortion and efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws.

In reponse to the blatant lies and misrepresentation of this bill in the letter circulated by the House Republican leadership, Congresswoman McCollum sent her own Dear Colleague, stating:

I strongly urge my Democratic and Republican colleagues to vote today to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act – S. 987.

S. 987 passed the U.S. Senate unanimously and will be voted on today on the House floor.   

The choice on S. 987 is not difficult or controversial.

The choice is between supporting a U.S. strategy to protect young girls from abuse, rape, and forced servitude OR opposing S. 987 while millions of children continue to be molested and enslaved.

S. 987 will establish a strategy and interventions to prevent child marriage and protect girls.  It authorizes the use of existing State Department resources – there is no new spending authorized ($ZERO).


Opposing S. 987 will send the message that the world’s only superpower will not make the effort to stop the violent abuse, rape, and slavery of millions of little girls.

 Protect the lives and futures of millions of girls and stop their abusers – I urge all my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, to vote to pass S. 987.

But this was to no avail, as House Republicans fell into line and voted against the bill, defeating it 241 to 166.

“The action,” stated Durbin:

on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill tonight will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill.

I can only conclude from this and other actions of the Republican party and the so-called pro-life movement that indeed the lives of women and girls mean little to nothing.  Otherwise, how could anyone advocate for defeat of a bill that would prevent children younger than my own 14-year-old from being forced into marriage, rape, and childbirth before she could even finish primary school.

It is digusting. These people clearly have no shame.

Next time you see John Boehner cry, it will clearly not be for the plight of the young girls being forced into marriage.

UPDATE: 10:37 pm, December 17, 2010: In the aftermath of the bill’s defeat, Congresswoman McCollum said in a statement:

Child marriage is a global challenge that knows no politics. Every day, it brutally destroys millions of young girls’ lives. If nothing is done, this barbaric practice will force millions more girls into a life of slavery, sex abuse, domestic violence, and servitude.

Senate Democrats and Republicans didn’t play partisan politics in this vote; they unanimously recognized that the United States can and should become a leader in the fight against child marriage. Had this legislation contained abortion provisions or authorized new spending, it never would have unanimously passed the Senate.

I thank the 229 Democrats who voted for this bill as well as the 12 Republicans. I am especially grateful for Senators Durbin, Brownback, Kerry, Lugar, and Snowe who worked to get this bipartisan agreement passed.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act failed last night not because of the issue, but because a handful of Republicans chose partisan politics over the basic human rights of young girls. I am truly disappointed in this result, but I’m not giving up on these children.

DEAR COLLEAGUE FROM ROS-LEHTINEN:

Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:29 PM
Subject: RL dear colleague

Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515
December 16, 2010

VOTE “NO” on $108 Million S. 987
Support $1 Million GOP Alternative


Dear Republican Colleague,
   I urge you to oppose the Senate bill, S. 987, the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010,” when it comes up for a vote today in its current version.
  ·       S. 987 would authorize $108 Million over 5 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

·       S. 987 authorizes this assistance without having at hand a clear accounting of existing U.S. efforts for the prevention of child marriage. According to the Congressional Research Service, there is no available, confirmed figure on how much taxpayer funding is already being used to fight child marriage in developing countries. (For example, in Ethiopia USAID has worked to reduce child marriage by raising awareness of such a harmful practice among religious and political leaders, and has further partnered to establish girls’ advisory committees to prevent child marriage and encourage school attendance of girls; in India, USAID co-funds programs for in-school counseling that includes instructions on the benefits of delaying marriage until the legal age;  in Yemen, USAID is working with local organizations to improve community knowledge of the social and health consequences of child marriage, while strengthening community support to keep girls in school. Yet, no actual assistance figures exist for such programs.)  We should not authorize more funding without first assessing what we are now spending and how we might address any deficiencies in our current programs and improve our efforts.

·       By contrast, H.R. 6521, the GOP alternative that I have introduced would result in no more than $1 Million in potential costs,while making it clear thatchild marriage is a violation of human rights and that its prevention should be a goal of US foreign policy; requiring the creation of a multi-year strategy; requiring a comprehensive assessment of what the United States is already doing and funding in the effort to fight child marriage; and requiring that the practice of child marriage in other countries be reported each year as part of the annual Human Rights Report.
   

Again, I urge a NO vote on S. 987 when it is brought up for consideration. To co-sponsor H.R. 6521, please contact Christina Jenckes at christina.jenckes@mail.house.gov or x68467.
 
Sincerely,


ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
Member of Congress

WHIP ALERT:

Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 6:53 PM
Subject: WHIP LD Alert: Opposition to S.987

Leadership and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen OPPOSE passage of S.987, the International Child Marriage bill, because of cost and pro-life concerns. Please see below for their individual vote positions. We will vote on this in the upcoming vote series.

Leader Boehner: No
Whip Cantor: No
Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen: No

S. 987 authorizes $108 million over 5 years without sufficient oversight of the taxpayers’ money. According to the Congressional Research Service, there is no available, confirmed figure on how much taxpayer funding is already being used to fight child marriage in developing countries and this bill does not address that issue.

In contrast, Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen has introduced H.R. 6521, which would result in no more than $1 million in potential costs, while making it clear that child marriage is a violation of human rights and that its prevention should be a goal of US foreign policy; requiring the creation of a multi-year strategy; requiring a comprehensive assessment of what the United States is already doing and funding in the effort to fight child marriage; and requiring that the practice of child marriage in other countries be reported each year as part of the annual Human Rights Report.

There are also concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that promote and perform abortion and efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws.

Commentary Politics

In Mike Pence, Trump Would Find a Fellow Huckster

Jodi Jacobson

If Donald Trump is looking for someone who, like himself, has problems with the truth, isn't inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn't understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs, then Pence is his guy.

This week, GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump is considering Mike Pence, among other possible contenders, to join his ticket as a vice presidential candidate.

In doing so, Trump would pick the “pro-life” governor of a state with one of the slowest rates of economic growth in the nation, and one of the most egregious records on public health, infant and child survival, and poverty in the country. He also would be choosing one of the GOP governors who has spent more time focused on policies to discriminate against women and girls, LGBTQ communities, and the poor than on addressing economic and health challenges in his state. Meanwhile, despite the evidence, Pence is a governor who seems to be perpetually in denial about the effects of his policies.

Let’s take the economy. From 2014 to 2015, Indiana’s economic growth lagged behind all but seven other states in the nation. During that period, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Indiana’s economy grew by just 0.4 percent, one-third the rate of growth in Illinois and slower than the economies of 43 other states. Per capita gross domestic product in the state ranked 37th among all states.

Income inequality has been a growing problem in the state. As the Indy Star reported, a 2014 report by the United States Conference of Mayors titled “Income and Wage Gaps Across the US” stated that “wage inequality grew twice as rapidly in the Indianapolis metro area as in the rest of the nation since the recession,” largely due to the fact “that jobs recovered in the U.S. since 2008 pay $14,000 less on average than the 8.7 million jobs lost since then.” In a letter to the editor of the Indy Star, Derek Thomas, senior policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families, cited findings from the Work and Poverty in Marion County report, which found that four out of five of the fastest-growing industries in the county pay at or below a self-sufficient wage for a family of three, and weekly wages had actually declined. “Each year that poverty increases, economic mobility—already a real challenge in Indy—becomes more of a statistical oddity for the affected families and future generations.”

In his letter, Thomas also pointed out:

[T]he minimum wage is less than half of what it takes for a single-mother with an infant to be economically self-sufficient; 47 percent of workers do not have access to a paid sick day from work; and 32 percent are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines ($29,685 for a family of three).

Despite the data and the struggles faced by real people across the state, Pence has consistently claimed the economy of the state is “booming,” and that the state “is strong and growing stronger,” according to the Northwest Indiana Times. When presented with data from various agencies, his spokespeople have dismissed them as “erroneous.” Not exactly a compelling rebuttal.

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As a “pro-life” governor, Pence presides over a state with one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation. Data from the Indiana State Department of Health reveals a “significant disparity” between white and Black infant mortality rates, with Black infants 1.8 times more likely to die than their white counterparts. The 2013 Infant Mortality Summit also revealed that “[a]lmost one-third of pregnant women in Indiana don’t receive prenatal care in their first trimester; almost 17% of pregnant women are smokers, compared to the national rate of 9%; and the state ranks 8th in the number of obese citizens.”

Yet even while he bemoaned the situation, Pence presided over budget cuts to programs that support the health and well-being of pregnant women and infants. Under Pence, 65,000 people have been threatened with the loss of  food stamp benefits which, meager as they already are, are necessary to sustain the caloric and nutritional intake of families and children.

While he does not appear to be effectively managing the economy, Pence has shown a great proclivity to distract from real issues by focusing on passing laws and policies that discriminate against women and LGBTQ persons.

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a “religious freedom” law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only “amended” it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his “conservative values,” rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

These facts are no surprise given that, as a U.S. Congressman, Pence “waged war” on Planned Parenthood. In 2000, he stated that Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals and advocated that funding for HIV prevention should be directed toward conversion therapy programs.

He also appears to share Trump’s hatred of and willingness to scapegoat immigrants and refugees. Pence was the first governor to refuse to allow Syrian refugees to relocate in his state. On November 16th 2015, he directed “all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana,” sending a young family that had waited four years in refugee limbo to be resettled in the United States scrambling for another state to call home. That’s a pro-life position for you. To top it all off, Pence is a creationist, and is a climate change denier.

So if Donald Trump is looking for someone who, like himself, has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs, then Pence is his guy.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Some Men Base Condom Use on Women’s Looks

Martha Kempner

This week, a study suggests some men are less likely to have safer sex with women whom they find attractive. There's now a study of women's pubic hair grooming habits, and a lot of couples don't have wedding-night sex.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Men Less Likely to Have Safer Sex If Partner Is ‘Hot’

The old adage “Never judge a book by its cover” is apparently easily forgotten when it comes to judging potential sex partners. A new study in BMJ Open found that men said they were less likely to use a condom if their potential partner was hot.

In this small study, researchers showed pictures of 20 women to 51 heterosexual men. The men were asked to rank how attractive the woman was, how likely they would be to have sex with her if given the opportunity, and how likely it was they would use a condom if they did have sex with her. The results revealed that the more attractive a man found a woman, the less likely he was to intend to use a condom during sex with her.

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Men also rated how attractive they consider themselves, and the results showed that this was also related to condom use. Men who thought of themselves as more attractive were less likely to intend to use a condom.

Researchers also asked the men to estimate how many out of 100 men like themselves would have sex with each woman given the opportunity and finally, how likely they thought it was that the woman in the picture had a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

The results of these two questions turned out to be related: The men assumed that women whom other men would want to sleep with were more likely to have STIs.

This did not make the men in the study any more likely to intend to use a condom with those women. In fact, the men were most likely to intend condom use with women they found less attractive, even though they considered these women less likely to have an STI.

This was a small study with a relatively homogenous group of men ages 18 to 69 near Southhampton, England, and it measured intention rather than behavior.

Still, the results could present a challenge for public health experts if men are making condom decisions on a broader scale based on attraction rather than risk assessment.

How and Why Women Groom Their Pubic Hair

A new study published in JAMA Dermatology is the first nationally representative survey of U.S. women’s pubic hair grooming habits. The study included more than 3,300 women ages 18 to 64.

Overall, 84 percent of women had engaged in some pubic hair grooming. Pubic hair grooming was more common among younger women (ages 18 to 24); among white women; and among women who had gone to college.

Before you start thinking everyone is out getting Brazilians, however, grooming means different things to different women. Only 21 percent of women said they took all their pubic hair off more than 11 times, and 38 percent of women say they’ve never done so. Moreover, waxing lags behind the most popular hair removal methods; only 5 percent of women say they wax compared with 61 percent who shave, 18 percent who use scissors, and 12 percent who use electric razors. (Respondents could choose more than one answer in the survey.)

Most women (93) do it themselves, 8 percent have their partners help, and 6.7 percent go to a professional.

The researchers were most interested in the most common reason women groom their pubic hair. The most common reason was hygiene (59 percent), followed by “part of my routine” (46 percent), “makes my vagina look nicer” (32 percent), “partner prefers” (21 percent), and “oral sex is easier” (19 percent).

Tami Rowen, the lead author of the study and a practicing gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told the New York Times, “Many women think they are dirty or unclean if they aren’t groomed.”

But while people may think that, it’s not true. Pubic hair actually exists to help protect the delicate skin around the genitals. Rowen and other doctors who spoke to the Times believe that women, especially teenagers, are taking up grooming practices in response to external pressures and societal norms as reflected in images of hairless genitals in pornography and other media. They want young people to know the potential risks of grooming and say they’ve seen an increase in grooming-related health issues such as folliculitis, abscesses, cuts, burns, and allergic reactions. As some may remember, This Week in Sex reported a few years ago that emergency-room visits related to pubic hair grooming were way up among both women and men.

This Week in Sex believes that women should be happy with their genitals. Keeping the hair that grows does not make you dirty—in fact, it is there for a reason. But if shaving or waxing makes you happy, that’s fine. Do be careful, however, because the doctors are right: Vulvas are very sensitive and many methods of hair removal are very harsh.

Wedding-Night Sex May Be Delayed, But That’s OK With Most Couples

Summer is a popular wedding season, with couples walking down the aisle, exchanging vows, and then dancing the night away with friends and families. But how many of them actually have sex after the caterer packs up and the guests head home?

According to lingerie company Bluebella—about half. The company surveyed 1,000 couples about their postnuptial sex lives and found that 48 percent of them said they did “it” on their wedding night. Most women in those couples who did not get it on that night said they were just too tired. The men, on the other hand, said they were too drunk or wanted to keep partying with their friends. (It is unclear whether the survey included same-sex couples.)

By the next morning, another 33 percent of couples had consummated their marriage, but about 10 percent said it took 48 hours to get around to it.

But whenever couples did have that post-wedding sex, the overwhelming majority (84 percent) said it lived up to their expectations.