Deep Cuts to U.S. International Family Planning Assistance Would Have Devastating Impact

Cuts Would Jeopardize Lives and Health of Women in Poor Countries, Cripple Highly Effective U.S. Global Health Effort

Thousands of women in poor countries would die from pregnancy-related complications and one of the most successful U.S. global health programs would suffer severe damage if funding for U.S. international family planning and reproductive health assistance were cut significantly, according to two new Guttmacher Institute analyses.

The first analysis examines the stark impact of potential funding cuts. The United States currently contributes $648 million for family planning and closely related reproductive health care overseas. Guttmacher estimates that every $100 million decrease in the program would result in the following outcomes:

  • 5,000 more maternal deaths;
  • six million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services and supplies;
  • 1.9 million more unintended pregnancies;
  • 800,000 more abortions (of which 600,000 would be unsafe);
  • 600,000 more years of healthy life (DALYs) lost; and
  • 23,000 more children losing their mothers.

Funding reductions of different magnitudes would have proportional effects. The roughly $200 million cut proposed in H.R. 1—a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would fund the government through the end of FY 2011—would have double the impact detailed above.

The second analysis examines the unique attributes of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program that make it especially effective at empowering women in developing countries to better time and space their pregnancies. Unlike many other donor countries, USAID’s program relies heavily on the private sector, stresses technical assistance and evaluation, and concentrates its support on improving the quality of and access to contraceptive services. It is also the only governmental donor to deploy professional staff around the world to work alongside local counterparts, thereby enhancing effectiveness and local ownership.

"The U.S. emphasis on working with nongovernmental organizations, rather than only foreign governments, facilitates innovation and accountability, leverages greater investment from recipient country governments themselves and ensures that U.S. expertise has the maximum positive impact," says Susan Cohen, Guttmacher’s director of government affairs. "If the U.S. ability to provide technical assistance is lost, it would not only be difficult to recreate, but the effectiveness of funding provided by other donors and local governments would be jeopardized, as well."

Taken together, the two analyses illustrate comprehensively that cuts to the U.S. international family planning program would have significant repercussions, directly impacting women’s lives and potentially crippling a highly successful global health program.

"The U.S. international family planning and reproductive health program stands out as one of our nation’s flagship foreign aid investments and is a cornerstone of the new Global Health Initiative," says Cohen. "Cutting funding for this highly effective program would be disastrous for women and families in poor countries—while barely making a dent in the U.S. budget deficit."


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