President Bush’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2009, released today, would dramatically cut funding for international family planning and sexual and reproductive health programs. The proposed funding level of $327 million represents a $134 million (or 29%) cut from current levels.
This budget proposal continues a disturbing downward trend in funding for these vital health programs for women and families. Since 1995, U.S. funding for family planning programs has fallen nearly $100 million — a 39 percent reduction when adjusted for inflation and the FY 2009 budget request would equal a nearly 60% reduction below the amount provided for these programs in FY 1995 (adjusted for inflation). These cuts have occurred despite a growing need and demand for reproductive health care in the developing world. For example, the number of women of reproductive age in the developing world alone has increased by approximately 275 million women since 1995.
The funding reduction also coincides with President Bush continuing to withhold money from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which might otherwise be able to help compensate for the funding shortfall. President Bush has withheld nearly $200 million from UNFPA since 2002, despite funding appropriated by the United States Congress.
“There is a huge and growing imbalance around the world. While increasing numbers of women are crying out for family planning and reproductive health services, the U.S. is giving less funding each year to help them and their families,” said Amy Coen, President of Population Action International (PAI). “We urge Congress to reject these cuts and boost funding for these programs which enable women to make choices that can create healthy, stable families.”
These cuts come even though the Bush Administration’s advisors have recommended family planning as a way to combat HIV/AIDS. The U.S. Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) espouses the importance of family planning and reproductive health programs (FP/RH) in preventing HIV and supporting people living with HIV/AIDS. Yet while funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has dramatically increased, FP/RH funding has declined. At the same time, a growing number of experts have confirmed the importance of FP/RH. In a recent article for The Washington Post, reporter Craig Timberg wrote that “researchers increasingly agree that far more cases of pediatric AIDS could be prevented with a cheaper, easier and more effective alternative: birth control” (‘Best-Kept Secret’ For HIV-Free Africa, 12/16/2007).