U.S. Foreign Assistance

Under Pressure: International Family Planning Faces Cuts from Sequestration and Budget-Slashing Mania

Non-defense discretionary spending makes up only 15 percent of the U.S. federal budget. And international family planning and reproductive health? Just .03 percent.

Yet these programs are still targeted by Congress by disproportionate cuts, undermining one of our country’s most cost-effective and successful foreign assistance investments. USAID data from seven countries shows that for every dollar invested in family planning and reproductive health, there is significant savings in education, immunization, water and sanitation, maternal health, and malaria. Savings range from $2 in Ethiopia to more than $6 in Guatemala and Bangladesh, to up to $9 in Bolivia for every dollar invested.

After high-stakes negotiations to raise the nation’s debt ceiling back in 2011, large, automatic cuts to domestic and defense programs were scheduled to be imposed under an arcane process known as “sequestration,” absent an agreement between the President and Congress on long-term budget deficit reduction. Unfortunately, no grand bargain materialized.  As a result, when the President signed a “continuing resolution” to fund the federal government for the remainder of  fiscal year 2013 at the end of March, it included  a 5 percent sequestration cut to all non-defense discretionary programs, including foreign assistance.

As of early June, the State Department and USAID were still working on final foreign assistance program allocations, so it is difficult to say with any certainty how much funding for family planning will be available.  Congress included some changes in the funding levels for global health and development programs from the formula otherwise being used to set federal spending that are likely to affect final funding levels.

Based on certain assumptions, our analysis suggests that funding for international family planning could be as high as $598 million—a $12 million cut from the prior-year level of $610 million.  But absent any adjustments in the account levels by the State Department and USAID as a result of the congressional changes to health and development accounts, the funding cut to family planning could be as large as $30.5 million.

Under this worst-case scenario, what would a $30.5 million sequestration cut mean for women and their families in developing countries who are the beneficiaries of U.S.-funded programs?

  • 1.586 million women denied access to contraceptive services & supplies
  • 475,500 additional unintended pregnancies and 228,750 additional unplanned births
  • 228,750 additional abortions (of which 152,500 are unsafe)
  • 1220 maternal deaths
  • 6100 children losing their mothers

Compounding the sequester cuts are the ongoing efforts by House Republicans to dramatically slash funding for non-defense discretionary programs for the coming fiscal year. Deep and disproportionate cuts were already made in the allocation for the FY 2014 State Department-Foreign Operations spending bill recently approved by the House Appropriations Committee.  The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition estimates that total proposed funding of $40.6 billion would fall 19 percent ($9.5 billion) below both current levels (post-sequestration) and the President’s FY 2014 budget request.

So, in addition to the unique political attacks directed at international family planning funding by House Republicans each year, all programs funded within the State-Foreign Operations bill will face extreme budgetary pressures and will likely be subjected to dramatic reductions that will prevent the House from producing credible and responsible legislation.

The reality is simple: Cuts cost lives. PAI has joined a coalition of more than 3,200 organizations to stop budget cuts to discretionary programs like international family planning. Join us in telling Congress we need a balanced approach to deficit reduction by sharing this video and joining the Twitter conversation with the hashtag #nomorecuts.

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