Sequestration and the Looming Setback to Women’s Rights

Feb 27th, 2013 | By | Category: Family Planning

By Suzanne York,

It’s easy, if you’re not in the Beltway, to disregard all the machinations emanating from our nation’s capital.  Do or die elections, fiscal cliffs, and now sequestration – budget cuts to end all cuts.

$85 billion in federal spending reductions just for this year alone is not a joking matter.  The U.S. needs a balanced budget, but at what cost, and what are our true priorities?  The government supports $10 billion in subsidies to the oil industry, yet that’s not even on the chopping block, despite the overwhelming evidence of climate change.  Should we be empowering women and girls, pulling people out of poverty, doing what we can to maintain a livable planet, or help the oil companies make even greater profits?

As with any kind of federal budgetary cutbacks, this one will threaten many programs and social services that impact Americans and the world.  One in particular will be a loss of tens of millions of dollars for international family planning services and reproductive health programs.

Below is an excerpt from an article by Craig Lasher of Population Action International that lays out what is truly at stake for millions of women and their families around the globe:

What would sequestration mean for overseas family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs?  In fiscal year 2012, funding for international FP/RH programs in all accounts is earmarked at $610 million, including a $35 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  While no final decisions have probably been made yet on how sequestration would be applied within the foreign assistance budget, it seems likely that the 5.3 percent reduction to non-defense discretionary programs estimated by the Congressional Budget Office would be applied to the earmarks of bilateral economic assistance for USAID programs and multilateral assistance for U.S. government’s contribution to UNFPA.  The net effect would be a cut of $32.3 million to FP/RH programs from the FY 2012 appropriated level.

What would these funding cuts mean in the lives of women and their families in developing countries who are the beneficiaries of USAID and UNFPA programs?  Based on an analysis of the powerful impact of U.S. investment in FP/RH programs overseas by the Guttmacher Institute, the following potential effects of the reduced funding level can be calculated:

  • 1.68 million women denied access to contraceptive services & supplies
  • 485,000 additional unintended pregnancies
  • 226,000 additional unplanned births
  • 226,000 additional abortions (of which 162,000 are unsafe)
  • 1,292 maternal deaths
  • 6,460 children losing their mothers

Take action today by contacting your representatives and urging them to support international family planning for the sake of women and men around the world.


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies


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