We are disappointed by the news that the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage act failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives. On Dec. 1, 2010 the Senate unanimously passed the bill. This news created hope and excitement among advocates and professionals working with youth and in the field of youth reproductive health globally. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives rejected the bill yesterday by a 241-166 vote. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would cost approximately $67 million, which raised concerns among some House members. Some Republican House members were also concerned with implications for family planning and the possibility that the bill might affect pro-life laws. However, the bill (full text available here) contained no mention of abortion or any abortion provisions.
There are more than 60 million child brides worldwide. Over 25,000 girls under the age of seventeen are married daily, resulting in approximately 10 million child marriages each year. Early marriage places girls at a greater risk of many negative health outcomes such as increased likelihood of maternal mortality and becoming infected HIV. Girls are often forced to leave school at a young age as a result of early marriage and are at greater risk for sexual violence. Under the proposed bill, the U.S. government would have developed an integrated, strategic approach to combating child marriage with the goal of eliminating this practice worldwide.