Healthy Women Are Essential to Advancing U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda

By voting to reduce funding for international reproductive health and family planning activities, eliminate funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and reinstate the Global Gag Rule, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs threatens to turn back the clock on women’s health and has taken its disturbing war on women to a global stage.

Investing in international family planning maximizes the impact of our foreign aid dollars and is critical to the health of women and their families around the world. The subcommittee’s plan to reduce funding of international reproductive health activities would undermine our strategic international development goals and would be detrimental to the health of women and newborns. When women are healthy and empowered, they can spark a ripple effect in their families, communities, and nations that can lead to lower rates of poverty and stronger economic growth and productivity. With its short-sighted decision to cut UNFPA funding, the subcommittee is crippling its best ally in promoting healthier families, prosperous and stable societies, environmental sustainability, and resource and food security across the globe.

Worldwide, there are 215 million women who want – but do not have – access to quality reproductive health and family planning education and services. With the world’s population poised to cross the 7 billion mark in October, this unmet need is only likely to increase. According to the Guttmacher Institute, providing quality reproductive health care and modern contraceptives to all women who want and need them reduces the cost of maternal and newborn care for each dollar invested, resulting in a net total savings of $1.5 billion.

The reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, continues the subcommittee’s attack on women’s health. Rescinded by President Obama in January 2009, the Global Gag Rule denied foreign organizations receiving U.S. family planning assistance the right to use their own non-U.S. funds to provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or promote the legalization of abortion in their country. When the policy was in effect, its negative impact was felt around the world: clinics often offering the only health services in a community were disqualified for funding and closed, outreach efforts were eliminated, and many women had no access to contraceptives. Such restrictions would be unconstitutional if imposed on U.S. organizations.   

The United Nations Foundation joins the international community in calling for the subcommittee to end its war against women’s health and consider the costs of its current actions on future generations. The investments we make today will shape the world we leave our children and grandchildren. We all have too much at stake to turn our back on progress now.

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