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Family Planning and Reproductive Health

Despite progress, 299,000 women die annually as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, including from unsafe abortions. [1]


Investments in family planning and reproductive health, or FP/RH, are essential to empowering women and girls, advancing gender equity and reaching overall U.S. goals for global health, which include ending preventable child and maternal deaths and achieving an AIDS-free generation.

It is estimated that more than 218 million women in low- and middle- income countries want to avoid pregnancy and have an unmet need for modern contraceptives. [1]

For young people worldwide, access to reproductive health information, tools and services — including comprehensive sex education and contraception — is essential for remaining healthy, continuing their education and developing skills to build more peaceful and prosperous communities. [2]

Despite progress, 299,000 women die annually as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, including from unsafe abortions. [1] Most of these maternal deaths were preventable, and 94% occurred in low- and middle-income countries. [3]

Fulfilling the unmet need for contraception would enable women, youth and couples to prevent unintended and high-risk pregnancies, resulting in an estimated 70,000 fewer maternal deaths each year. [1]

Photo Credit: Planned Parenthood Global


Ensure robust and increased funding for bilateral international FP/RH programs and the essential reproductive and maternal health work of the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, in annual appropriations bills. Additionally, the U.S. should increase funding for contraceptive research and development.

Support permanent legislative repeal of the expanded Mexico City Policy, which denies foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance the right to use their non-U.S. funds to provide legal abortion services, counseling or referrals, as well as the right to advocate for the reform of restrictive abortion laws in their own countries.

Oppose efforts to introduce new or to codify existing policies that could undermine FP/RH programs and prohibitions on funding to UNFPA. Support the repeal of long-standing restrictions such as the Helms amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act.

Congress should utilize its accountability and oversight role to ensure that political nominees and appointees in key global health, development, humanitarian and diplomatic positions have the knowledge and experience necessary to effectively lead these programs and will prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of their work. Through U.S. foreign assistance and diplomacy, U.S. agencies must support comprehensive, evidence-based, medically accurate interventions, policies and reporting that advance the health and human rights of women, young people, families and marginalized communities.

Photo Credit: WorldVision Dollow Irrigation Project A beneficiary breastfeeds her baby in Dollow irrigation farm. The irrigation project aimed at addressing food and nutrition insecurity in the districts through a combination of interventions which include farming technologies, irrigation systems, and improved water catchment storage system so as to minimize water loss and soil destruction.


The U.S. Agency for International Development has funded FP/RH programs for more than 50 years. USAID is the world’s largest bilateral family planning donor, currently supporting reproductive health programs in nearly 40 countries.

Investments in UNFPA support the global health goals of the U.S. by working in places where the U.S. cannot, for security or political reasons. UNFPA’s work complements the bilateral family planning program, by expanding the reach of U.S. assistance to more than 150 countries. [6] They also provide critical reproductive and maternal health services in humanitarian-crisis settings like Bangladesh, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. [8]

UNFPA plays a crucial role in the fight against COVID-19. In coordination with sister U.N. agencies and NGOs, UNFPA is distributing personal protective equipment and sanitizing agents for frontline health workers, as well as supporting and supplementing health systems.

In fiscal year 2020, Congress appropriated $607.5 million for international FP/RH efforts. This included $32.5 million for UNFPA, to be reprogrammed for bilateral FP/RH and maternal health activities. These investments made it possible to achieve the following:

These investments made it possible to achieve the following:

4 million

women and couples received contraceptive services.

2 million

unintended pregnancies were averted.

1 million

unsafe abortions were averted.


maternal deaths were averted. [5]

For every increase of $10 million in U.S. international FP/RH assistance, the following would result:


more women and couples would receive contraceptive services and supplies.




fewer unintended pregnancies.


 fewer unsafe abortions would take place.


fewer maternal deaths would occur.[5]


Sexual and reproductive health services are essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Risk mitigation efforts, such as restrictions on movement or the types of health care services allowed to operate, have limited access to sexual and reproductive health services. Supply chains for commodities, including contraceptives, have also been disrupted. Estimates show that a 10% reduction in the availability of reproductive health services is likely to result in 49 million women having an unmet need for modern contraception and 15 million additional unintended pregnancies.

Additionally, the pandemic places a disproportionate burden on women and girls who are facing an increased risk of gender-based violence and carry the risks and responsibilities of being the majority of caretakers both in the home and in the health care sector.


  1. Adding It Up: Investing in Contraception and Maternal and Newborn Health, 2019
  2. Just the Numbers: The Impact of U.S. International Family Planning Assistance, 2020
  3. The U.S. Government and International Family Planning & Reproductive Health Efforts


Rebecca Dennis, PAI,

Caitlin Horrigan, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA),

Jenny Vanyur, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA),



[1] Adding It Up: Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health 2019, Guttmacher Institute (2019).

[2] The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future, UNFPA (2014).


[4] Just the Math: Methodology for Calculating the U.S. Share of the Cost of Addressing the Unmet Need for Contraception in Developing Countries, PAI (2018).

[5] Just the Numbers: The Impact of U.S. International Family Planning Assistance, 2020, Guttmacher Institute (2020).

[6] UNFPA: About Us (2018).

[7] UNFPA Supplies (2020).

[8] Humanitarian Emergencies, UNFPA (2020).

[9] Estimates of the Potential Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, Guttmacher Institute (2020).

[10] Mitigating COVID-19 Impacts on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Civil Society Call to Action (2020).