Last week, President Bush proposed a dramatic 25% reduction in funding for
international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs in his federal 2008 budget request despite the fact that they are one
of the most successful components of the U.S. foreign assistance program. These
draconian cuts come at a time when U.S. funding for FP/RH programs is already
35% below (when adjusted for inflation) the levels of twelve years ago. In
addition, the re-imposition of the Global Gag Rule in 2001 has made matters worse by forcing
family planning providers in poor, developing nations to lay off staff and shut
down their clinics. PAI implores the U.S. Congress to increase—rather than
cripple—funding for international family planning and reproductive health as a
key way to reduce global poverty and improve women’s health worldwide.
Under the President’ proposal, total U.S. bilateral funding for FP/RH
programs would be drastically reduced to $324.8 million—a whopping $111 million
less than current funding levels. Ironically, the rationale for the decrease
from the State Department was a recognition of “significant successes that have
been achieved after 40 years of worldwide family planning efforts.” Rather than
building on these successes—and addressing the needs of the 200 million women in
the developing world who lack desired access to contraceptives and other basic
reproductive health care—this proposed budget abandons these essential
lifesaving programs, sacrificing progress in maternal health, poverty
eradication and disease prevention.
The President has increased his commitment to programs like PEPFAR and the Millennium Challenge Account, but these increases come at the
expense of other humanitarian programs—such as family planning—and threaten the
very success of PEPFAR and the MCC. How, for example, can the White House fully
address the feminization of the AIDS epidemic if it has decimated the very
health services where women and their families have sought care for decades?
The President’s apparent dismissal of the value of family planning and
reproductive health care is a departure from past international commitments to
improving the lives of women, men and children. In 1994, the U.S. joined 178
other countries in pledging to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)
Programme of Action—which included the provision of reproductive and sexual
health services for all by 2015. Cutting funding to family planning radically
undermines the U.S. commitment to these goals and puts them farther out of
Winning the fight against global poverty and disease depends on a
comprehensive approach to humanitarian aid that includes family planning.
Improving reproductive health is essential to reducing poverty, maternal
mortality and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Rather than defunding FP/RH programs, the
U.S. needs to expand and strengthen these proven, life-saving strategies.