Reproductive health and specifically abortion are highly controversial topics in most countries around the world. Last June the Bush administration used a loophole in the 2008 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to withhold all $40 million that Congress allocated to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the world’s largest provider for women’s health. According to UNFPA advocates, the financial withholdings undermines much need reproductive health needs, especially for women in the developing world. Since 2002 the United States has withheld US$235 million from UNFPA, which advocates say could have prevented 294,000 maternal deaths and could have allowed 82 million women to delay their first or next pregnancy. Now advocates are bringing there message to cyberspace.
The “34 Million Friends” campaign is a grass-roots movement created in July 2002 by Americans Lois Abraham and Jane Roberts, with the goal is to find 34 million friends to help UNFPA. The women are using YouTube and an email campaign to get the word out about their cause. So far, over 100,000 donors have contributed over $3 million. Roberts and Abraham were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 project under the patronage of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO.
“Unfortunately we are no where close to $34 million but a significant amount of money with more coming in every week, is sending a positive message to the world from the American people,” Roberts said in a recent article. “We need an Administration which respects and supports women. Frankly, we haven’t had one for 8 years. We need an Administration which will join 180 other countries in supporting the humanitarian work of the United Nations Population Fund. We need change.”