Campus News

UW-Madison students lobby legislators in Capitol Hill

Students from UW-Madison and other System schools attended a lobbying weekend at Capitol Hill to speak to Wisconsin Legislators about the Global Health Empowerment and Rights Act, which aims to put an end to a 35-year debate. 

Image By: Halle Lambeau

Nearly 30 UW-Madison students traveled to Washington D.C. last weekend where they were educated on social justice issues, including a policy that cuts funding from foreign non-governmental organizations that offer abortion consulting, referrals or education. 

The first Monday after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, he revoked former President Barack Obama’s rescindment of the Mexico City Policy, now known as Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance. This policy requires all foreign non-governmental organizations to agree to not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning. According to this policy, even if the foreign non-governmental organizations use non-U.S. aid, they still are subject to losing funding. 

“It effectively cuts off funding from all organizations that are providing direct health services on the ground in countries all over the world for even talking abortion care,” said Katie Wade, an organizer of Fight 4 Her from the national grassroots organization Population Connection Action. 

The UW-Madison students at Capitol Hill lobbied their legislators to support the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, which aims to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to shield foreign non-governmental organizations from being unable to receive U.S. funding for providing services, referrals and lobbying efforts using non-U.S. funds. 

“The whole objective for Congress Action is to avoid a future executive action that will negate efforts,” Wade said. 

Previous amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which provides the guidelines and conditions under which U.S. aid can be utilized, have prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion. This includes the Helms Act, which states that no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions. 

Other amendments that follow the same trend are the Leahy Amendment, Siljander Amendment and Biden Amendment. These amendments ensure that federal funds do not aid lobbying, educating or implementing abortion as a form of family planning. 

According to a U.S. Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs meeting from 2001, the Mexico City Policy prohibits foreign non-governmental organizations from using their own money to provide legal abortion services, advocate for changing the abortion laws in their own country and provide full and accurate medical information about legal abortion services to their patients. 

“As a result, many foreign, non-governmental organizations are being forced to either limit their services or simply to close their doors to women across the world,” former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer said. 

This newly expanded policy under the Trump administration impacts all global health programs such as HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases and neglected tropical diseases. 

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