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House Republicans, Including Reichert, Kill Anti-Child-Marriage Bill

By Erica C. Barnett December 17, 2010

House Republicans have blocked a bill, six years in the making, aimed at preventing child marriage worldwide. According to reproductive rights blog RH Reality Check, "[a]n estimated 60 million girls in developing countries now ages 20 to 24 were married before they reached the age of 18.  The Population Council estimates that the number will increase by 100 million over the next decade if current trends continue."

The bill, which contains no new funding (it's crafted to make better use of existing international assistance), passed unanimously in the Senate.

What killed it in the House? Anti-choice lies, of course---namely, "concerns that ... efforts to combat child marriage could be usurped as a way to overturn pro-life laws," according to a "whip alert" sent out by Senate Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).

What Republicans are saying with their vote is that it's better to force little girls (who have already been forced into marriage, and forced into having sex) into bearing children before their bodies are equipped to do so, than risk the possibility that a single one of them could get an abortion. And, fact check: The bill merely requires that the president and the State Department make child marriage a core part of American international development strategy; it does not allow US funding for abortions.

Oh, and---making up for his anti-DADT vote earlier this week, I suppose---guess who voted, along with 165 of his fellow Republicans, to kill it? US Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA). Reichert's office has not yet returned emails seeking comment.
At 6:53 pm just before the vote was to be held, Eric Cantor's office sent out a "whip alert" to Legislative Directors of Republican offices, which now also contended that they should vote against the bill based on "pro-life" concerns. What "pro-life" concerns?  I find it literally impossible to say, since for one thing the bill itself seeks to protect and promote the life, health and survival of girls who are being married as young as age eight, and for another thing the bill, in that it seeks to prevent child marriage in the first place did not address the needs of already-married girls and young women who for obvious reasons otherwise need access to reproductive health care.

Bill sponsor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), said in a statement yesterday,  “The action on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill tonight will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill.”

Oh, and if you want to be really depressed, check out this New York Times slideshow of child brides.
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