Human Rights Policy and Nonprofit Organizational Development

Quoted in On The Issues article

In Policy Blog on August 30, 2010 at 6:13 pm

My Gender Across Borders piece on the Gates Foundation’s problematic failure to address abortion issues in their sexual and reproductive health funding strategy has been quoted in an On the Issues article by a friend and respected colleague, Marcy Bloom.   In her powerful piece, titled Health Inequality: Gates Foundation Bans Abortion, Ms. Bloom calls unsafe abortion a form of violence against women and scoffs at the idea that the Gates Foundation can remain “neutral” on the issue of abortion.  An excerpt is below, full article available here.

Bill and Melinda Gates are undoubtedly aware of these realities of women’s unequal lives. The end result of their “neutrality” is but one choice for women and girls who become pregnant. That one choice equals no choice.

Allowing the further stigmatization of abortion validates and strengthens the belligerent anti-choice movement.

But the power and influence of the foundation go further. Because of its prestige, size and assets, the foundation is central to “setting the sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda around the world,” in the words of policy researcher and writer Brook Elliott-Buettner in Gender Across Borders.

Whatever the intent, the Gates Foundation is establishing, even distorting, the direction of investments by other foundations, individuals and even governments. Although Bill and Melinda Gates have the right to spend their money as they wish, it is also true that their inordinate power in determining universal health agendas demands accountability.


Quoted and reported by IPPF

In Policy Blog on July 26, 2010 at 2:13 am

I’m very excited to see that the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has pulled from my recent column on abortion in Kenya for a News Room article.

Here it is.

From the article:

Religious leaders campaigning against the Proposed Constitution have come under criticism from a global organization for their stand on abortion.

Ms Brook Elliott Buettner has accused the clergymen of favouring the life of the unborn child over that of the mother.


Buettner, a social justice worker and freelance human rights policy researcher, points out that 15,000 women die annually of pregnancy-related complications and more than a third in unsafe abortion.

“Maternal mortality rates in Kenya are among the world’s highest. Direct medical causes for maternal death include haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour and unsafe abortion,” she cautions.

Foreign Aid Cuts Will Affect Women’s Health

In Policy Blog on April 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm

This is a cross-posting of my monthly column on Gender Across Borders, the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Situation Report.

In recent weeks I’ve gone to my state capitol several times to lobby for public health funding, and been told again and again that there is just no money.  The federal government is facing a similar situation, and as the fight over the 2011 federal budget continues, women’s health is consistently on the chopping block.  We’ve all been following cuts and abortion funding riders at the national level, but funding at the global level is at risk as well.

The Republicans’ proposed 2011 budget includes vicious cuts to the foreign aid budget — nearly a third.  This will mean drastic reductions in USAID’s Family Planning and Maternal and Child Health programs.  Guttmacher lays out just what this will mean in this fact sheet.  The international aid policy community is buzzing.  Oxfam America’s Aid Reform Campaign is working with a number of major NGOs to lobby congress (see how below).  The head of USAID recently testified before congress that the cuts will mean death for 70,000 children.  I love it when public figures speak frankly!  Here‘s more on testimony about the global health and security consequences of the cuts.

Although USAID programming has ping-ponged between reasonable and right wing as successive presidents have  rescinded and re-instated the dreaded Mexico City Policy, it currently has projects which run the gamut from information on contraception to postabortion care.  Their website even points out the evidentiary link between clandestine abortion and maternal death.

The Guardian’s poverty blog is pretty pessimistic about the fate of international aid funding as the debate wears on.  I know it’s undeniable that cuts must be made — you can’t have guns and butter.  But our priorities as a society are proving to be criminally absurd.

These are absolutely desparate times.  Rather than working to refine the attack on maternal death and build effective health infrastructures for women worldwide, activists are being forced to cling by our fingernails to the bare-bones funding sustaining lifesaving programs. 

Now is the time to make sure your senators and representatives know where you stand.  Call them every day! Especially if you live in a Republican district, let your congressperson know that you won’t stand for the crackdown on women’s health here in the US, or the decimation of funding for development and health programs worldwide.

Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121 

House of Representatives switchboard: 202-224-3121

Or, email them here.