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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Imperiling Lives Overseas by Limiting Access to Contraceptives and Imposing Gag Orders

Christian fundamentalists within the Bush administration are burdening foreign aid with policies that shun at-risk groups and divert funds into abstinence-only propaganda rather than life-saving condoms.

Below on this page: Institute of Medicine: Drop Abstinence Funding Formula | In the News | Call for support of expanded family planning aid | GAO Report shows "abstinence-only" earmark draining HIV prevention programs | NGO's Must Denounce Prostitution | Criticism of Abstinence-only AIDS Prevention Policy | South African Victims of Abstinence-only Policy

Randall L. Tobias, foreign aid director who stressed abstinence, suddenly resigns from State Department
Bush official who required foreign aid contractors to denounce sex workers felled for using an escort service charged with providng prostitutes

April 30, 2007

Background: Randall L. Tobias, who held the rank of ambassador and directed the State Department's foreign aid programs as well as the Agency for International Development, resigned Friday after learning that he would be named in an ABC 20/20 report as a client of an escort service accused by prosecutors of supplying prostitutes. The service's owner, dubbed the "Washington Madam" is fighting the charges by outing her clients. Ironically, the international HIV/AIDS program Tobias ran made it difficult for organizations wishing to reach out to sex workers or distribute condoms to get funding. Continue.

Institute of Medicine: Drop Abstinence Funding Formula

Bush’s Global AIDS Effort Limited by Restrictions

By Donald G. Mcneil Jr., The New York Times, March 31, 2007

President Bush’s $15 billion plan to fight AIDS globally is seriously hampered by restrictions imposed by Congress and the administration, a panel of medical experts said yesterday.

The country’s most prestigious medical advisory panel, the Institute of Medicine, was asked by Congress to assess the five-year plan at midway. The 13 members of the panel praised the efforts, saying the plan had "demonstrated what many doubted could be done." But it needs to move from an emergency response to a long-term battle plan, the panel said, and its members listed these three restrictions that they felt were the most hindering: Continue.

Institute of Medicine Urges Changes in U.S. Global AIDS Spending

By John Reichard, Congressional Quarterly, March 30, 2007

Countries that get funds from the United States to fight AIDS should have more power to determine the proportions of prevention, treatment and abstinence money that work best within their particular borders, the Institute of Medicine said Friday.

The current U.S. formula that fixes the percentage of funds allocated among those areas should be dropped, said Jaime Sepulveda, chairman of the Institute panel that prepared the report. Continue.

Analysis: Report blasts AIDS funding rules

By Olga Pierce, UPI, Science Daily via Piercing.org, March 30, 2007

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- The $15 billion fund that is the major source of U.S. global AIDS giving should abandon its system of earmarking funding -- especially for abstinence-based programs -- according to a new report from the Institutes of Medicine.

"We are recommending Congress to remove budget allocations," said Jaime Sepulveda, chairman of the report committee, at a briefing Friday.

"Having a one-size-fits-all kind of approach is not helping countries to tackle (their) local epidemic."

In 2003, at the president's request, Congress established the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to distribute $15 billion over five years to 15 of the neediest countries affected by the epidemic.

The authorization requires that 55 percent of funds be spent on treatment, 15 percent on palliative care and 10 percent on children affected by the epidemic. The remaining 20 percent was earmarked for prevention programs, and of those funds, a third must be spent on abstinence-based programs. Continue.

Barbara Lee Responds To Report On President's Global AIDS Plan - Cites Call For Elimination Of Abstinence-Until-Marriage Earmark, USA

News release from Rep. Lee, Medical News Today, March 30, 2007

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) responded to the release today of the Institute of Medicine's report on the implementation of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Lee was a coauthor of the bipartisan legislation that established PEPFAR, which designated $15 billion for the prevention, care, and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

"The Institute of Medicine's report represents an authoritative evaluation of this critical tool in our fight against the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, and it offers us very useful insights into what is working and where we can make improvements," said Lee. "We should be encouraged by the progress being made in addressing mother to mother-to-child transmission and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator's commitment 'to learning by doing and contributing to the evidence base for how to combat global HIV/AIDS most effectively.'" Continue.

In the News

Health Database Was Set Up to Ignore ‘Abortion’

By Robert Pear, New York Times, April 5, 2008

WASHINGTON — Johns Hopkins University said Friday that it had programmed its computers to ignore the word “abortion” in searches of a large, publicly financed database of information on reproductive health after federal officials raised questions about two articles in the database. The dean of the Public Health School lifted the restrictions after learning of them.

A spokesman for the school, Timothy M. Parsons, said the restrictions were enforced starting in February.

Johns Hopkins manages the population database known as Popline with money from the Agency for International Development. Continue.

Senate Should Send Message to Bush: Stop Blocking World's Poorest Women's Access to Birth Control
Boxer-Snowe Amendment Gives Senate Opportunity To Repeal The Divisive Global Gag Rule

News Release, NARAL Pro-Choice America via Commondreams.org, September 6, 2007

WASHINGTON- September 6 - Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said her organization is mobilizing its grassroots activists in support of a proposal to repeal the dangerous global gag rule.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe's (R-ME) amendment to the FY '08 foreign-aid spending bill would fully repeal a policy that bans overseas health clinics from receiving U.S. family-planning aid if they use their own funds to provide legal abortion services, give referrals, or even take a public pro-choice position. U.S. funds do not pay for abortion-related services. Continue.

Take action with NARAL's petition to end the Gag Rule. Click here.

Family Research Council: Africans may be in danger if president's AIDS proposal passes

By Jim Brown, OneNewsNow.com via Newsbull.com, June 5, 2007

A spokesman for the Family Research Council (FRC) says President Bush's plan to double the U.S. commitment to fighting the global AIDS problem could be a waste of taxpayer dollars. Bush has called on Congress to increase the funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to $30 billion over five years, beginning in October 2008. The plan would pay for AIDS treatment for 2.5 million people in 15 countries -- more than double the 1.1 million who now receive treatment through the program.

Tom McClusky, FRC's vice president for government affairs, says the Democrat-led Congress needs to ensure the money is being used to promote sexual abstinence, not to distribute condoms in Third World countries. If abstinence is not a priority, says McClusky, the $30 billion will be an outright waste of money and will endanger lives. Continue.

President Bush’s Policies Save Lives in Kenya

Sarah Rode, Concerned Women for America Press Release, June 11, 2007

President Bush’s commitment to upholding the Mexico City Policy has stripped funding from pro-abortion groups in Kenya. International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and other groups received government funds during the Clinton administration to provide "health and reproductive services" which they used to monetarily entice Kenyan doctors to defy their nation’s laws by committing abortions in a country which outlaws them.

According to Joseph Ofisi, a Kenyan doctor now studying in the U.S., doctors were targeted by IPPF and paid to attend "extravagant conferences in 5 star hotels where the abortion agenda was pushed and doctors taught the techniques of abortion procedure." These conferences are not advertised as abortion training seminars, but rather as a forum to learn "new techniques in reproductive health". According to Dr. Ofisi, doctors who promote the abortion agenda in clinics in their villages are paid three times as much as doctors who provide legitimate health services to Kenyans. They are also paid by the number of abortions they commit. This creates an incentive to increase the prevalence of abortion in a country where the majority of the population opposes abortion and the law forbids it. Continue

UNdoing Reproductive Freedom Christian Right NGOs Target the United Nations

by Pam Chamberlain, PublicEye.org, December 2006

The Christian Right increasingly seeks to restrict women's reproductive rights internationally through its growing number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with consultative status at the United Nations. Believing their power to be enhanced by the election of an anti-choice president in 2000, these anti-choice NGOs have increased their presence at the UN. They oppose UN programs and platforms promoting access to abortion and contraception, and they promote an abstinence-only family planning curriculum worldwide. Using the access to a few official delegations and activities offered by their consultative status, the NGOs pursue their goals by attempting to stonewall the deliberative process of committees, organizing and funding an international caucus composed of other conservative religious entities and governments to mobilize opposition more broadly within the UN. Continue.

ACLU and Public Health Groups Urge Appeals Court to Reject Bush Global AIDS Gag

News release by ACLU, December 21, 2006

WASHINGTON - December 21 - The federal government is illegally restricting the ability of U.S. health organizations to end the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, charged the American Civil Liberties Union and more than 25 public health and human rights organizations in a legal brief filed today.

The groups are urging a federal appeals court to reject a U.S. policy known as the "AIDS Leadership Act," which requires organizations that receive U.S. federal funding-regardless of their mission-to explicitly pledge to oppose commercial sex work. Two federal courts have already ruled that the policy violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. organizations, but the government is appealing those decisions.

"It is shameful that the Bush administration would value its political agenda over human lives," said Claudia Flores, an attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and counsel on today’s brief. "Rather than saving lives, this global gag rule will put women and girls at serious risk of infection and death. This policy is completely at odds with efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and to treat its victims." Continue.

Challenging the "Luxury" of Abstinence

by Haider Rizvi, Inter Press Service via Common Dreams, December 1, 2006

NEW YORK - While there is no indication that the George W. Bush administration is willing to roll back its current restrictions on funding for HIV/AIDS, it may find it difficult to maintain the status quo when Democrats take charge of the U.S. Congress in January.

With increasing pressure from women groups, religious organisations and health advocacy groups, Democratic lawmakers seem ready to challenge the notion that abstinence from sex until marriage is the best way to combat AIDS at home and abroad.

"We will see a strong effort this year," said Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of her plans to introduce new legislation to remove "abstinence only" conditions on HIV/AIDS funding. Continue.

Bush’s Failed Global AIDS Plan

By Sarah Fort, Ms. Magazine via Alternet, November 30, 2006.

In his January 2003 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush announced a $15 billion initiative to "turn the tide" against AIDS, targeted mainly at 14 of the hardest-hit African and Caribbean countries, plus Vietnam. That would virtually triple the U.S. commitment, offering renewed hope to the nearly 30 million AIDS sufferers in Africa alone.

It all sounded grand.

But very quickly, the strings of the plan -- now known as PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- began to show. Starting in 2004, the United States recommended -- and by 2006 required -- that 33 percent of all prevention funding be earmarked for abstinence and fidelity programs. Condoms could be recommended only for high-risk groups, not for sexually active people in general. No funds would be provided to groups that don't explicitly condemn prostitution. Finally, the Bush administration seemed to be spreading a significant share of AIDS funding through faith-based groups. Continue.

Religious right wields clout
Secular groups losing funding amid pressure

By Michael Kranish, Boston Globe, October 9, 2006 (PART 2 of the Globe's series: CHURCH MEETS STATE | EXPORTING FAITH)

Kranish reports on how the religious right has gained and exercises influence over distribution of US Agency for International Development (USAID) funds. Jewish organizations have been shut out of the process, according to the report, which quotes an official with the charity CARE who "said administration officials sometimes criticized the grants that went to Muslim and Jewish groups." A former USAID employee "said the office catered mostly to evangelical Christians. He calculated that of 167 organizations invited to discuss potential grants during a 15-month period ending in September 2004, only five were non-Christian." After he objected to this policy, he was fired.

Groups applying for funds for HIV-AIDS programs were required to sign an anti-prostitution pledge, and, Kranish reports, "American Jewish World Service, one of a handful of non-Christian faith-based groups to get US funds, received a single subgrant of $60,000 for AIDS work in Kenya, provided through the CARE program. The organization reluctantly agreed to sign the anti-prostitution pledge but quickly had second thoughts. The organization tries to stop the spread of AIDS by providing education opportunities for children of prostitutes, which can help mothers leave the brothels." Click here for the report.

Rift Opens Among Evangelicals on AIDS Funding
Dobson targets Global Fund, which helps Salvation Army, Youth for Christ, and World Vision.

by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service via Christianity Today, posted 06/02/2006

As the world marks 25 years since HIV and AIDS first appeared, a clash among high-profile evangelical leaders over an international relief foundation threatens to take center stage.

The dispute also lays bare a faultline among American evangelicals, who have been divided over the treatment and prevention of AIDS because of the disease's perceived connections to homosexuality and sexual promiscuity.

The clash, which centers on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, may have long-term ramifications, both for those suffering with diseases and for the reputation of American evangelicals, activists said. Continue

TVC Opposes Increase In Global AIDS Funding Proposal

The Traditional Values Coalition, May 23, 2006

Washington, DC - Traditional Values Coalition is calling on Congress to reject a multi-million dollar increase in funding for the Global AIDS Fund, an organization that is unaccountable to U.S. taxpayers and openly opposes President Bush's AIDS policies. Continue

Call for support of expanded family planning aid

Increase Access to Contraceptives Abroad

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, in support of H.R. 4736, the Ensuring Access to Contraceptives Act , received by email May 21, 2006

A Global Gag Rule imposed by President Ronald Reagan, removed by President Bill Clinton, reinstated by the Bush administration prohibits US-aided family planning organizations from providing abortions, contraceptives or educating about preventing HIV/AIDS. This bill would free contraceptive supplies from the political restrictions set by the Global Gag Rule. Read more and take action

The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism has taken the lead in calling for support of H.R.4736. Planned Parenthood also supports the bill. Click here

For the text, sponsors and legislative history of H.R. 4736, Ensuring Access to Contraceptives Act, please click here

GAO Report shows "abstinence-only" earmark draining HIV prevention programs

US Government Report Shows Bush AIDS Policy is Unworkable

News Release, Global Aids Alliance, via Common Dreams, April 4, 2006

"Washington, April 4 -- The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new report today which shows that the US approach to AIDS prevention is essentially unworkable.

"The State Department requires that two-thirds of funding devoted to preventing sexual transmission of AIDS must be spent on programs that encourage abstinence and fidelity. The GAO report says that to comply with the requirement US country programs have had to reduce funding for programs that meet the needs of sexually active youth, truckers, sex workers, and couples in which one partner is negative and the other is positive. Go to the news release

Spending Requirement Presents Challenges for Allocating Prevention Funding Under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

By the Government Accountability Office, April 4, 2006

You can find a PDF copy of the 93-page government investigation on the website of the Global AIDS Alliance. Click here

Or, you can find a one-page summary of the report's highlights on the GAO's website. Click here

Rep. Barbara Lee Responds to GAO Report on Abstinence-Only Earmark

News Release from Rep. Lee, a California Democrat, April 04, 2006

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), senior most Democratic woman on the House International Relations Committee and co-author of the legislation establishing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), responded to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the negative impact of the Congressionally mandated 33 percent earmark of global AIDS prevention funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

“Our global AIDS prevention policy should be based on proven, evidence-based science,” said Lee. “Unfortunately, this report demonstrates the Bush administration’s willingness to make AIDS prevention policy a political plaything in their ongoing effort to appease the radical right. We should be relying on science, not ideology, to stop this pandemic. We need a sound public health policy, not political pandering.” Click here for the report.

Government Watchdog Criticises Bush's AIDS Plan

By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, April 4, 2006

"The report's conclusions were immediately denounced by right-wing lawmakers who support abstinence and fidelity programmes. Rep. Chris Smith, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, charged that it was 'politically biased and incomplete.'" Click here to read the report.

NGO's Must Denounce Prostitution

Aid Without Prejudice

Cara Hesse, TomPaine.com, May 26, 2006

Cara Hesse is the director of public affairs for Pathfinder International.

Health experts contend that in order to halt the spread of HIV worldwide they must be allowed to provide aid without prejudice. Recently a U.S. court agreed. Two weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that a key government policy that affects delivery of HIV/AIDS services is illegal. The ruling was a major victory for all organizations who work with vulnerable populations around the world.

Pathfinder and its co-plaintiffs, The Alliance for Open Society International (AOSI) and the Open Society Institute, initiated the lawsuit five months ago The basis of the case was a law—passed by Congress in 2003—which requires foreign public health organizations that receive U.S. funds to formally “pledge their opposition” to prostitution and sex trafficking in order to continue their life-saving HIV-prevention work. Initially, this law only affected organizations overseas; however, in 2004 the government expanded the law to include American organizations as well. Continue

Ominous Convergence: Sex Trafficking, Prostitution and International Family Planning

By Susan A. Cohen, Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, February 2005

Motivated by its religious ideology, the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress insitiuted a requirement that, in order to receive US funding, non-US NGO's must have an anti-prostitution position. Influential religious right groups are pressing the administration to extend that rule to private NGO's working in the US, which have been seen as protected from such coercion by the First Amendment. Click to read this PDF document

Criticism of Abstinence-only AIDS Prevention Policy

Abstinence Groups Get 25% Of Bush HIV/AIDS Funds

By Rita Beamish, Associated Press, 365gay.com, January 29, 2006

"(New York City) President Bush's $15 billion effort to fight AIDS has handed out nearly one-quarter of its grants to religious groups, and officials are aggressively pursuing new church partners that often emphasize disease prevention through abstinence and fidelity over condom use.

"Award recipients include a Christian relief organization famous for its televised appeals to feed hungry children, a well-known Catholic charity and a group run by the son of evangelist Billy Graham, according to the State Department." Click here for the report.

More HIV funds to promote abstinence
Researchers call policy misguided

By David Kohn, Baltimore Sun, December 10, 2005

In a decision that has alarmed many public health researchers and AIDS advocates, the Bush administration is increasing the amount of HIV money that must be used to promote abstinence, while at the same time limiting funds for condoms. Opponents see the move as the latest attempt by the White House and religious conservatives to expand what they view as an unscientific and ineffective HIV prevention strategy. Critics say the approach could cost lives in the developing world. Click here to read the report.

The Missing Condoms

Editorial, New York Times, September 4, 2005

In its HIV prevention programs abroad, the Bush administration is emphasizing "abstinence only," rather than the use of condoms to prevent spread of the infection. As the Times notes, Uganda, once a leader in HIV prevention, is the only nation to have taken up the Bush policy and has stopped making condoms availale to a population that is consequently at grave risk. Click here to read the report

South African Victims of Abstinence-only Policy

Young South African victims of "abstinence-only" US foreign aid

By Jane Hunter, JewsOnFirst, January 16, 2006

loveLife is an innovative South African organization that works to keep young teenagers HIV free. Part of its program involves advocating condoms. Of course, that isn't the long and short of what it does. But, loveLife's director believes, that is the reason the organization's funding was slashed. Click here for more.