The Trump administration has cut $32.5 million in funding for The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), putting millions of women and young girls worldwide at risk. The decision comes after his January reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule, eliminating U.S. funding for any health care agency worldwide which even so much as mentions abortion.
The UNFPA enables more women to exercise their human rights through providing access to reproductive health care, making family planning a reality and empowering young girls with sexual education. U.S. funding accounts for about seven percent of UNFPA’s budget. U.S. funding in 2016 enabled UNFPA to save 2,340 women worldwide from dying during pregnancy and childbirth, prevented 947,000 unintended pregnancies and 295,000 unsafe abortions and funded 1,251 surgeries for fistula—a painful condition resulting from obstructed labor that causes a woman’s urine or feces to leak out of her body.
The State Department claimed that funding was cut because the UNFPA works with the Chinese government, which carries out population control policies by coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization. There is no proof that the UNFPA directly engages with these services, and existing laws and policies forbid U.S. funding from going directly to abortion.
But this decision will reverberate around the world—felt not only by women and girls in China, but in nations where this funding can change and save lives. The leading cause of death in developing nations is sexual and reproductive complications. Over a hundred million girls worldwide face the prospect of child marriage and female genital mutilation. Cutting UNFPA funding will mean illness, sexual vulnerability and even death for girls and women globally.
“If you’re concerned about human rights abuses in family planning programs,” Craig Lasher from UNFPA said, “it’s better to constructively engage than to walk away. And UNFPA has been part of the solution — not the problem.”