Thursday, December 19, 2002

34 Million Friends

Cruise on over to the 34 Million Friends Campaign and explore ways in which you might support their efforts to promote reproductive health services worldwide. At the behest of the religious right and sanctimonious, the Bush Administration has pulled 34 million in funding dollars from the United Nations Population Fund. This UN agency is responsible for ensuring that women throughout the globe - poor women, in particular - have universal access to reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health. The administration argument, that some countries are using abortion as a method of birth control is a red herring. There is simply no evidence of that claim, and to the contrary, we have seen indications otherwise. From the site:

Conservative groups have been pushing Bush to end taxpayer funding for abortion and coercive policies. However, a US government fact-finding team who went to China to investigate concluded that there was no evidence that UNFPA knowingly supported or participated in these practices. Despite these findings, the Bush administration still ultimately withdrew the funding, although it was eventually shifted to the Child Survival and Health Programs Fund, which is overseen by the US Agency for International Development.

According to UNFPA, the $34 million could be used to prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, almost 800,000 abortions, 5000 maternal deaths and 60,000 serious maternal illnesses as well as preventing over 77,000 infant and child deaths.

Independently of each other, Jane Roberts of Redlands, California, and Lois Abraham of Taos, New Mexico, started campaigns to raise the money to close the $34 million funding gap created by the US. They sent email messages to their friends asking them to send a $1 bill or check to UNFPA, then forward the message on to their friends and so on in, all in hopes of reaching 34 million friends and raising $34 million.

The response was quick: dollar bills began to pile up in the UNFPA office in New York. The campaign was named "34 Million Friends" and as of October 11, 2002, $64,165 has been received and hundreds more envelopes have yet to be opened.

Funds raised from this campaign will go towards UNFPA's core program budget to make up for the withdrawal of US support. This will give women and men in over 140 developing countries access to quality reproductive health information and services. This campaign is endorsed by many national and local organizations, including NOW, the National Council of Women's Organizations and People for the American Way.

A related photo exhibition called "Family of Woman" opened in New York and will be traveling to Los Angeles and Minneapolis next year.

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