Sad news out of Washington this week on women's rights: The House Republican leadership killed a bill intended to fight child marriage in the developing world, the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010.
The legislation passed the Senate unanimously, where it was cosponsored by Republican Olympia Snowe. In the House, however, just an hour before the vote, the GOP circulated a "whip alert" asking Republicans to vote against the bill. The alert claimed, "There are also concerns that funding will be directed to NGOs that promote and perform abortion and efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws."
This is hooey. The Helms Amendment–the foreign policy corollary to the noxious Hyde Amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding of abortion–already bans American foreign aid dollars from funding abortion. Nothing in the child marriage bill would have changed that.
Sometimes you hear the argument that American feminists spend too much time fighting domestic anti-choice forces and not enough time focusing on the deplorable conditions women and girls live under in the developing world.
This is a reminder that it's all the same fight, because American conservatives will always use the specter of abortion to kill attempts to empower women and girls, both at home and abroad.
Here's a great video from the UN Foundation's Girl Up project on the "girl effect"–how a girl's life changes if she can continue her education at age 12, instead of entering into a forced marriage.