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Here We Go Again: House Proposes Slashing International Family Planning Programs and Reinstating Global Gag Rule

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Written by Chloë Cooney for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The recent arrival of Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng has  focused the world’s attention on the scourge of coercive reproductive policies in some countries. Now more than ever, U.S. foreign assistance should be directed toward those working to advance human rights. Yet, once again, the House Appropriations Committee voted to let politics interfere with lifesaving health care for women.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee proposed to cut funding for international family planning programs and impose harmful restrictions on women’s access to essential health care — including the global gag rule and prohibiting U.S. contributions to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

While this trifecta of funding cuts and restrictions now seems par for the course in the House, it comes in striking contrast to new evidence released the day prior by leading health organizations. A  report from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UNFPA, and the World Bank, once again confirms that birth control and reproductive health services are essential to saving women’s lives around the world. Thanks to these interventions, the report finds, maternal deaths declined by nearly 50 percent over the last 20 years.

As the report’s authors state, “[W]hen governments take a strategic approach to the safe motherhood challenge -- by deploying trained midwives, ensuring adequate essential supplies, making family planning accessible and providing timely obstetric care to women with complications, we are getting results.”

In other words, evidence shows that family planning prevents the needless deaths of women worldwide.  One would think this would be cause to sustain or even increase U.S. investments in these programs.

Unfortunately, the House bill contains $149 million in funding cuts and would roll funding levels back to 2008 levels.

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