Ask the Expert: Representative Chrissy Houlahan
In June 2021, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) introduced the Support UNFPA Funding Act to the House of Representatives. An advocate of women’s empowerment and gender equality, Rep. Houlahan has introduced this bill for the past three years. She spoke with us about what investing in women and girls would mean for the United States and for UNFPA.
Q: If passed, what would your bill do for women and girls in need of lifesaving reproductive health care?
Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (CH): My Support UNFPA Funding Act would help fund and support the UNFPA’s mission: working to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. What’s more is that it would send a clear message to our allies around the world: the United States is serious in its effort to support and protect women and girls as equal global citizens.
Q: Why do you personally support UNFPA’s work?
CH: First and foremost, I am a mother to young women. We have been fortunate to have access to quality health services throughout our lives. But this is not true for the majority of women in the world, and that is where UNFPA comes in. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing UNFPA’s work firsthand. In 2019, on my bipartisan trip to the Syrian-Jordanian Border, I visited the Azraq Refugee Camp. There, I saw how UNFPA and other international organizations served the needs of Syrian refugees in Jordan. The work they do to ensure the safety and health of women and families is irreplaceable. This work is a key example of how we can build a more equitable global society. Frankly, I believe it’s incumbent on us all as elected leaders to support this mission. It directly aligns with our values as a country.
Q: Why is it important that the United States fund UNFPA?
CH: Plainly, investing in healthy women and girls is investing in a more secure and peaceful world. UNFPA’s work is critical, and they are often the first and only line of defense for displaced women. Study after study has shown that achieving global peace is only possible through the empowerment of women, girls, and families. As the world’s leading foreign assistance provider, the United States cannot afford to leave behind 51 percent of the population.
Q: Does this bill have any implications for women and girls in the United States?
CH: I think it serves as an important reminder to women and girls here in the United States that their government cares deeply for the welfare of women and girls both here and abroad. It also cannot be repeated enough: these sorts of investments in organizations like UNFPA have a direct impact on our national security. To invest just 1 percent of the federal budget in development and diplomacy is to state unequivocally that we care about the safety and welfare of Americans as well as those abroad.
Q: What more can the United States do to be a global leader on sexual and reproductive health and rights?
CH: As a former teacher, I believe that education is a crucial part of this effort. In my community, I always try and seize the opportunity to discuss my work in international diplomacy and peace-building efforts through the lens of empowering women and girls. And that empowerment starts with health. How can we empower women who don’t survive childbirth? That’s why I will continue advocating on behalf of UNFPA. And, I will not stop until all of my colleagues in Congress recognize the importance of this organization.
Reading about the sexual and reproductive health issues that women and girls around the world face is a great way to begin this education. We stand with Rep. Houlahan and appreciate her support for this lifesaving care. All women and girls deserve access to health care, no matter what. You can contact your representative and urge them to join Rep. Houlahan in support women and girls by clicking here.