Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced legislation today to help end the preventable medical condition of obstetric fistula. Women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa are disproportionately affected with this result of prolonged, obstructed childbirth. More than two million victims live with the devastating physical and social consequences, with 50,000-100,000 new cases annually.
"This legislation has the potential to transform the empowerment of women in the region by eradicating fistula and, as a result, improving the social, educational, and economic conditions of fistula victims and their communities," DeLauro said. "Addressing this issue is not only a moral imperative for the United States, but it is also in our best strategic interest. When women are pushed out of their society, they cannot contribute. By treating and preventing this condition we are empowering women to care for themselves and their families and be active participants in society, greatly reducing global poverty. Simply put, this is something that we must do."
The United States Leadership to Eradicate Obstetric Fistula Act of 2012 authorizes the development of a comprehensive strategy to both prevent fistula and successfully treat women already suffering from the condition. It encourages the expansion of private and public-private efforts and promotes trained specialists going to Africa to help train health care providers, ensuring a self-sustaining infrastructure to care for women and girls going forward.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote about the trauma obstetric fistula can cast on an afflicted woman. The bill also has support from members of the medical community, including Dr. Lewis Wall, who has dedicated much of his career to treating and ending fistula, and said "This legislation will create a landmark program in American foreign aid. It is a thoughtful, targeted, and achievable plan to aid innocent women whose lives have been destroyed by the mechanics of childbirth-gone-awry. This legislation alleviates needless suffering, empowers African women, protects and promotes the African family, and provides a vehicle for creating, promoting, and sustaining the development of medical and surgical infrastructure in parts of the world where these are lacking. It also harnesses what is best in the American spirit by facilitating professional partnerships between American and African healthcare workers. It has the potential not only to do great good, but also to reinforce the image of the United States as a champion of those in need."