There’s hardly an issue, environmental or otherwise, where Bush administration rhetoric isn’t almost diametrically opposite to its actual policies and practices. Indeed, when it comes to appearance versus reality, Bush has taken Orwell’s 1984 to a whole new level.
Almost nowhere is this more true than in the administration’s doublespeak on women’s issues. Back in March, just as President Bush was giving a speech asserting that "the advance of liberty and the advance of women’s rights are ultimately inseparable," the U.S. was locking horns with delegates from 40 other countries at a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. At issue: U.S. refusal to endorse a platform from the 1995 World Conference on Women declaring that women worldwide possessed inalienable rights to education, civil rights and reproductive health services.
A similar gathering took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico this past June, near the 10th anniversary of the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development, which met in Cairo in 1994. At that time an agreement nicknamed the "Cairo Consensus" was forged among 179 U.N. members that "meeting women’s individual needs for reproductive health information and services was the best way to speed any nation’s economic development and slow its population growth."
The Clinton administration committed $550 million in 1995 alone for international family planning programs. The Bush administration has since steadily cut that funding, and in San Juan this year tried to delete references to "reproductive health," "family planning services," "sexual health," even "condoms," from a draft declaration of support. Fortunately, the other 38 countries present rebuffed the U.S. and went on to affirm their support for the Cairo agreement.
And rightly so. One-quarter of all adult women living in developing nations today suffer from some kind of pregnancy or childbirth-related condition. Every year, complications from pregnancy result in the deaths of 585,000 women and 1.5 million newborns, and in 1.4 million stillborn babies.
Bush’s policies on women’s issues are as ideologically driven and mean-spirited at home as they are internationally. According to The New York Times, an association of sex education researchers is sounding an alarm about persistent "sex policing" by the Bush administration. The administration has reportedly made changes in factual information about sex education and HIV transmission on government websites, and created an atmosphere of fear among sex educators who advocate any policy other than "abstinence-only."
Clearly the Bush administration’s simplistic take on women’s health, particularly reproductive health, is nothing but an anti-choice agenda conducted at the expense of sensible sex education, women’s lives and the environment. I know I am joined by most E readers and other people of conscience in social and environmental issues circles in hoping for a serious "regime change" here in the U.S. come November, for the sake of women worldwide and, for that matter, everyone else.