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Urgent Action Needed:

International Sign-on Letter to USAID on Decision to Disrupt Contraceptive Supplies in Africa

Friday 17 October 2008, by siawi

From: Serra Sippel
- Date: Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 11:03 PM
- Subject: Your action is needed today!

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As many of you know, a few weeks ago Bush administration officials
instructed personnel at USAID in six African countries-including Ghana,
Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe-to ensure that
recipient governments do not distribute U.S.-donated contraceptive supplies
to Marie Stopes International (MSI), a London-based organization that
provides family planning services globally. This decision could deny vital
family planning and HIV prevention services to thousands of women who use MSI’s services-the majority of whom live in rural and underserved areas-and increase the likelihood of unsafe abortion and maternal death.

The Bush administration justifies this action by citing a provision in U.S.
law called the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which prohibits funding for entities that support or promote coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. The U.S. government, however, has not provided evidence that MSI supports or promotes these practices, and the U.S. does not fund MSI. The administration reasons that because MSI works with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in China, which in turn has been accused of violating Kemp-Kasten, it is justified in preventing any U.S.-donated
contraceptives from reaching MSI. This is an unfounded, politically-motivated move that jeopardizes the health, rights, and lives of
women internationally.

Endorse the international sign-on letter!

The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) is seeking endorsements from leaders of international organizations for a sign-on letter to USAID expressing our deep concerns about this dangerous decision. The letter is attached as a word document, and also pasted below, with the list of names in formation.

If you would like to endorse the letter, please e-mail Kim Whipkey of CHANGE at kwhipkey —or reply to this email-by 5:00pm EDT on Tuesday, October 21, 2008.

Please send:
- your name
- your title/position
- organization (for identification purposes only)
- country

We will send you the final letter with all signatories shortly after its
submission to USAID.

Thank you for joining colleagues and allies around the world in this effort
to ensure that all women, men, and families have meaningful access to
essential family planning and HIV prevention services. Please do not
hesitate to contact me with any questions or for more information.

In solidarity,


Serra Sippel
- Executive Director
- Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)
- 6930 Carroll Ave, Suite 910
- Takoma Park, MD 20912 — USA
- ssippel , kwhipkey


October XX, 2008

Kent Hill
- RRB 3.06-072
- U.S. Agency for International Development
- 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
- Washington, DC 20523-3100

Dear Mr. Hill,

As leaders of international organizations committed to the sexual and
reproductive health and human rights of women, men and youth globally, we are writing to express our deep concern over USAID’s recent decision to
interfere with Marie Stopes International’s (MSI) access to contraceptive
supplies in Africa. We ask you to rescind your instructions to U.S.
Missions to urge host governments to ensure that U.S.-donated contraceptive supplies do not reach MSI. National health systems are already over-burdened. To impose an onerous task such as separating out donated contraceptive supplies is unjust and violates the rights of individuals to enjoy-and impedes government commitments to provide-the highest attainable standard of health.

According to MSI, the USAID decision will "seriously disrupt" family
planning programs in at least six African countries-including Ghana, Malawi,
Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe-leaving women and families with fewer family planning and HIV prevention options. The countries being targeted by USAID have some of the highest rates of unmet need for family planning, not discounting high HIV/AIDS prevalence, and the impact of such a decision will be devastating.

USAID has responded that the cut-off of supplies to MSI will not result in
an increase in unintended pregnancies or maternal deaths because the
supplies will be re-routed to other aid groups in those countries. However,
a majority of MSI’s family planning impact is in rural, underserved areas
where women are particularly vulnerable to illness and disease as well as
unexpected pregnancy. To deny them supplies will indeed have a grave impact on access for women and their partners.

The motion to ban contraceptive supplies to MSI under the guise of the
Kemp-Kasten Amendment is unfounded. Marie Stopes International does not support coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China or
elsewhere. Rather, the organization is a leader in increasing the
availability of voluntary, client-centered family planning services in China
and in countries around the world. Moreover, organizations such as MSI that do not receive U.S. funding were surely never intended by Congress to be a target of the Amendment.

We wholeheartedly urge you to reconsider USAID’s instruction to African
countries that they take measures to ensure that no U.S.-donated
contraceptive supplies reach Marie Stopes International. As MSI is one of
the world’s leading family planning organizations, this decision is sure to
have a detrimental impact on women who need their services the most. This decision not only undermines the sovereign decision-making of these
governments, but it also weakens U.S. efforts to reduce maternal deaths in
developing countries. Furthermore, it unfairly politicizes women’s health
and rights while also putting their lives in jeopardy.


Organizations listed for identification purposes only.

List in formation...

Carmen Barroso-
Director, International Planned Parenthood/Western Hemisphere Region
- USA/International

Mabel Bianco
- Founder and Director, Foundation for Studies and Research on Women (FEIM) Argentina

Beri Hull
- Global Advocacy Officer

International Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (ICW)
- USA/International

Alessandra Nilo
- Executive Coordinator, Gestos
- Brazil

Serra Sippel
- Executive Director, Center for Health and Gender Equity