WHY THIS INVESTMENT IS IMPORTANT
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has funded FP/RH programs for more than 50 years. USAID currently supports programs in more than 45 countries, addressing the demand for reproductive health services by providing, for example, a full range of effective contraceptive methods, accurate information about sexual and reproductive health and rights, and health services that are integrated across other health and development programs. These efforts improve maternal and child health; reduce unintended pregnancies; lower HIV and sexually transmitted infection rates; promote women’s rights and empowerment; expand education opportunities for women and girls; raise standards of living; support more sustainable development; and assist programs that address gender-based violence or forced, early, and child marriage. These programs are also cost-effective: every $1 invested in contraception saves $2.20 in pregnancy-related care.
In Fiscal Year 2018, 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 following the administration’s March 2018 non-evidence-backed decision to block funding to UNFPA. These investments have a real impact on the lives of women, girls, and families, making it possible to achieve the following:
- 25 million women and couples received contraceptive services;
- 7.5 million unintended pregnancies were averted;
- 3.2 million induced abortions were averted (2.1 million of them unsafe); and
- 14,600 maternal deaths were averted.
UNFPA complements the bilateral U.S. family planning program, USAID, by expanding the reach of U.S. assistance to more than 155 countries. UNFPA is the world’s largest provider of donated contraceptives, and USAID is the world’s largest bilateral family-planning donor. Drastic funding cuts to these programs would only worsen supply shortages. UNFPA also provides critical reproductive and maternal health services in humanitarian-crisis settings, reaching more than 30 million people (more than 4 million of whom are pregnant women) across 59 countries, including refugees in Bangladesh and displaced communities in Yemen.
The U.S. should increase investment in international FP/RH programs, while also continuing to push other countries and donors to step up and do their part. For every increase of $10 million in U.S. international FP/RH assistance, the following would result:
- 416,000 more women and couples would receive contraceptive services and supplies;
- 124,000 fewer unintended pregnancies, including 54,000 fewer unplanned births, would occur;
- 53,000 fewer abortions would take place (of which 35,000 would have been unsafe); and
- 240 fewer maternal deaths would occur.
However, some U.S. policies undercut FP/RH and global health investments. For instance, the expanded Mexico City Policy, which impedes access to health care by cutting off funding to experienced providers, also interferes with the doctor-patient relationship by restricting health care providers from giving their patients accurate information, referrals, and services based on their needs.