Bush proposes to slash global family planning aid

Posted: 16 February 2006

President Bush's budget proposal for the first time since he took office includes "sharp cuts" for funding of international family planning programmes, which the Bush administration previously said were "one of the best ways to prevent abortion."

Since 2001, when Bush reinstated the Mexico City Policy, Bush has said he would maintain the funding of such programmes at $425 million, according to a White House news release.

The $425 million went to overseas organisations in developing countries to promote family planning, and most was used for nutrition and counselling, advocates said, adding that the gag rule might limit the family planning money that is available.

According to fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget proposal figures provided by USAID as part of a comprehensive estimate of financing from the State Department and USAID, the FY 2007 budget proposal would reduce funding for overseas family planning programmes by 18 per cent, from $436 million to $357 million.

A USAID spokesperson said that other parts of the budget contain proposed increases for initiatives that will help women, such as programmes to fight sexual violence against African women, HIV/AIDS and malaria, claiming that this was a better budget than previous years for women's health.

However, Rep. Nita Lowey, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said:

"It's ironic that an administration outwardly committed to reducing the incidence of abortion would take away valuable tools for preventing unwanted pregnancies."

Engender Health, a leading international non government organisation based in New York, said in a statement: "Despite important advances, there is still a significant unmet need for family planning: An estimated 201 million women lack access to contraception, and more than 20 million women undergo unsafe abortions each year. The availability of family planning does more than enable women and men to limit their family size; it safeguards individual health, improves the quality of life for women, their partners and their children, and facilitates economic development and the preservation of scarce natural resources.

"International family planning programs are well-documented as a cost-effective, critical strategy to reduce poverty, improve health, and increase child survival rates worldwide. We call on Congress to review the proposed budget and increase funding for international family planning programs."

Source:Kaiser Network, 15 February 2006. Engender Health 17 February 2006

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