That’s right, folks. As incredible as it may seem, last night House Republican leaders blocked action on a bill aimed at preventing child marriages in areas of the world where this human rights violation persists. As I joyfully noted 2 weeks ago, the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriages bill unanimously cleared the U.S. Senate with 100% bipartisan support earlier this month, and seemed on its way to be passed by the House and signed into law by the President. But last night, it was defeated by a vote of 241-166.
The bill would have required the U.S. to develop a plan to combat child marriage in existing development programs—more background can be found here.
The choice on this bill was not difficult nor controversial: the choice was between supporting a U.S. strategy to protect young girls from violence, sexual assault and the other effects of child marriage or oppose the bill while millions of girls continue to be married early against their will and often to much older men. There is no new spending authorized in the bill; rather, the act would have made existing investments more efficient.
Senator Durbin, one of the co-sponsors, has issued a statement on the vote, which stating that those who voted in opposition of the Act brought “shame to the Hill.”
Feeling riled up about this vote? Let your Congressperson know how you feel.
As if this story could get any worse, the Washington Post is reporting that the bill failed because in the hours before the vote, Republicans circulated a memo to pro-life members of Congress alleging that the bill could fund abortions and use child marriage “to overturn pro-life laws.” The Post reports:
“When it came time for a vote, a number of the bill’s pro-life supporters in both parties abandoned ship. Even co-sponsors of the corresponding House bill (H.R. 2103), like Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.), voted against it.”
Using abortion as a lynchpin issue to derail the conversation about child marriage would in itself be unacceptably shameful, but what makes it even worse is that there is absolutely zero mention of abortion or abortion provisions in this bill. You can view the full text for yourself.
For me, this is a sad and frustrating reminder that anti-abortion activism hurts ALL women and girls, and that Republicans would go to any length to keep funding from organizations that are politically pro-choice.