Yesterday, President Obama reversed a policy that had been undermining women's health for nearly seven years, signing a spending bill including $50 million for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA, an international agency that provides reproductive and sexual health services worldwide, had been denied US funds since 2002, at the order of former President Bush. While right-wing opponents of UNFPA funding were until recently able to block that support, this return to an effective and science-based approach to women's health is a very welcome development.
At RH Reality Check, Michelle Goldberg explains the history of US opposition to UNFPA funding, showing that "Bush’s initial decision to defund the UNFPA was an early and stark warning that, under his leadership, American policy would be in thrall to the religious right." She explains some of the ill-founded and subsequently debunked arguments against UNFPA funding, and the impact they had on US foreign policy.
Feminist Daily News reminds us of what this withholding of funding meant for women worldwide.
Bush-era withholding of UNFPA monies that had been authorized by Congress accounted for 13 percent of the total funding of UNFPA yearly for programs that improve access and quality of reproductive health care including family planning, prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula, and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. The withheld funding would have prevented some two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death each year.
Click here to read a statement from UNFPA, released today.
Photo credit: Elizabeth Rappaport