Here We Go Again

Population Action International, please say it ain't so! Could UNFPA be defunded again?

                                             HERE WE GO AGAIN



One of the most harmful results of the midterm elections will be the decline in support for women’s reproductive health both here and abroad.  Forces are already at work to deny coverage for contraception in healthcare reform here in the U.S.  Yet studies show that spacing births contributes mightily to both maternal, infant and child health. A huge majority of Americans use family planning at sometime in their lives.  Family planning allows women to participate fully in society.


And while pregnancy is not an illness as opponents of the inclusion of contraception like to point out, it is still fraught with danger especially when  proper care is not readily available and when for various reasons the pregnancy is unwanted. This is not only true here but everywhere.


According to Population Action International, family planning lost a projected 44 votes in the U.S House. The House breakdown ominously resembles the headcount when Republicans gained control of the House in 1994. That period saw crippling restrictions on international reproductive health funding and false attacks against the United Nations Population Fund.


According to PAI,  the House Foreign Affairs Committee will likely be chaired by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) replacing Rep Howard Berman, a leading proponent of RH.  And if Chris Smith (R-NJ), an arch enemy of reproductive health and family planning, chairs one of the subcommittees –the Africa and Global Health Subcommittee that has jurisdiction over FP/RH, our worst nightmare will be realized. He was the one under George W. Bush who engineered the false charges against UNFPA which resulted in 7 years of the U.S. refusal to release funding.  Thus Lois Abraham and I started 34 Million Friends.


Representative Kay Granger (R-TX) is in line to replace reproductive health champion Nita Lowey (D-NY) as chair of the critical Appropriation Subcommittee on State Department and Foreign Operations. She has voiced skepticism about the size of recent funding increases for family planning.  The Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative which stresses support for women’s health and rights could well be whittled down. This would be a tragedy of immense proportions not only for the world’s most vulnerable women but for our reputation in the world.  Another obstacle to GHI might be the President’s Deficit Reduction Commission which is recommending  a $4.2 billion reduction in foreign assistance.


Access to family planning as a universal human right has been established most noticeably at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. The United States was signatory to the ICPD Plan of Action.  Yet still today over 200 million women and their families lack access to this most basic element of health.


Of the approximate 200 million pregnancies in the world every year, fully twenty percent end in abortion half of which are illegal, unsafe, resulting in thirteen percent of all maternal deaths and in over 5 million cases of injuries, hemorrhages and infections requiring post abortion care. Isn’t this gender based violence of the first order? How can any responsible informed person oppose access to family planning?


In the year 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals which, among other things, call for reducing extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 and for empowering women with education and reproductive health including family planning. The world can not accomplish the first without fully backing the second.  One should ardently hope that common sense will trump ideology in the next Congress.  Don’t hold your breath.

To see the full PAI report go to: