A Mother's Day "Gift" from Congress: Cuts for Global Maternal Health
Yesterday, the Republican-led Subcommittee of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations proposed a draft budget for spending on foreign aid, including funding of the United Nations, the State Department, and various peacekeeping operations around the world. The proposed amount was $40.1 billion as a base budget of the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and international affairs programs in other agencies. Additionally, they allocated $8.2 billion for diplomatic and development programs related to the ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
This represents an overall 12% cut from Obama’s proposed budget of $54.71 billion (and about 5% lower than what was proposed last year by Congress). These proposed cuts could be disasterous for humanitarian efforts in poor regions, meaning the cuts would reduce funding for providing clean cookstoves for poor families, promoting literacy, and other humanitarian needs.
Some reports noted that the House Appropriations bill increases Obama’s cuts to global health programs, but this should not fool the public. What the House proposed bill really does is reinstate the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “gag rule,” a rule that will severely curb funding for women’s health. It also prohibits funding for the UN Population Fund and caps family planning and reproductive health programs at the 2008 level.
The controversy over women’s health is not a new issue for the United States. With Congressional debates causing health care controversies, women’s health has been a hot topic. The American public should be aware of the assaults on women’s rights and health care globally. To give some background, the Mexico City Policy was instated under Ronald Reagan, which prohibited any United States funding or assistance to foreign nongovernmental organizations that “promote or perform” abortions. But as New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof observed, because of the gag rule, “girls and women in Africa's shantytowns are losing programs that offer them prenatal checkups, well-baby care, childbirth and family-planning assistance, and, above all, help fighting AIDS.” The Mexico City Policy may appeal to some in a political sense, but when it comes to real life situations, women and sometimes their unborn children die because of it.
According to USAID, a woman dies in childbirth every two minutes. This is a very preventable form of global discrimination. If the United States were to give more attention and funding to maternal and women’s health initiatives, this death rate would not be so staggering. This is a more pressing issue in poverty-ridden countries, as the rate of gender-based violence and rape is often overwhelming, contributing to the amount of unplanned pregnancies. To reinstate the gag rule and prohibit funding of the UN Population Fund would strip women of basic health care and human rights.
In a press release sent out by the House Committee on Appropriations, they state that this plan will save taxpayer money "by cutting funding to lower-priority international programs." Considering that 80% of maternal deaths are preventable, and a girl in Chad is more likely to die in childbirth than attend school, I would have to say this highly preventable human rights issue is not only a priority, but a huge one. In fact, when Save the Children released their State of the World's Mothers Report earlier this week, the results were shocking: the United States does not even make the top 20 on the list. That demonstrates the United States' lack of attention to maternal health, and bringing this issue to the forefront of foreign policy is a dire need.
I hope when the Senate considers a draft budget for spending on foreign aid, that they will weigh all the factors involved with ensuring human rights, basic health care, and the needs of those who rely on the United States so desperately.
About the author
Membership & Advocacy Coordinator
- Arms Control (22)
- Become a Member (3)
- Become a Member (1)
- Capitol Hill (164)
- CGS Political Action Committee (PAC) (17)
- Chapters (4)
- Civilian Protection (133)
- Climate Change (94)
- Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) (2)
- Congressional Report Card (7)
- Current Campaigns (8)
- Election News & Analysis (101)
- Fellows (2)
- Gender Based Violence (26)
- Genocide Prevention (113)
- Get Involved (68)
- Home (12)
- Human Rights (223)
- Human Rights Council (31)
- International Criminal Court (167)
- International Criminal Justice (51)
- Law & Justice (211)
- Law of the Sea Treaty (55)
- Nuclear Disarmament (81)
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) (2)
- Other (33)
- PAC: 2010 Election Endorsements (3)
- Partners for Global Change (2)
- Peacekeeping (104)
- Prevent War (181)
- Rights of the Child Treaty (10)
- Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) (19)
- Support Us (14)
- Take Action (24)
- Tax Deductible Giving (2)
- UN Funding (71)
- UN Reform & Revitalization (43)
- United Nations (321)
- usaforicc.org (1)
- WFI (5)
- Women's Rights Treaty (CEDAW) (47)