Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On President Trump’s Plan To End Funding For International Family Planning

Mr. President, there are far too many illogical, arbitrary, and harmful cuts in spending, and wholly unbalanced priorities, in the President’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget to list at one time.  I will have plenty more to say about that in the weeks and months ahead.  But I do want to take a moment to highlight one, as it illustrates the foolhardy way this Administration has sought to appease right-wing ideologues rather than do what is truly in the national interest.

For fiscal year 2017, the Congress – Republicans and Democrats – agreed to appropriate $607.5 million for international family planning programs.  Under our law, none of those funds can be used for abortion.  They are for contraceptives and services like education and counseling to promote voluntary family planning in the world’s poorest countries, and by doing so, to reduce reliance on abortion, reduce child mortality, improve maternal and child health, and increase opportunities for women and girls. 

These programs have a long track record.  There is abundant, indisputable data to show they are effective and they save lives.  And they illustrate that while we may have fundamental differences about whether women should have the right to abortion, there is broad agreement about the importance of family planning.

For fiscal year 2018, the Trump Administration proposes to eliminate funding for international family planning as a way to “protect life.”  That may be an appealing sound bite, but that’s all it is.  For every $10 million reduction in funding for family planning and reproductive health programs, the data shows that approximately 440,000 fewer women and couples receive contraceptive services and supplies, resulting in 95,000 additional unintended pregnancies, including 44,000 more unplanned births, 38,000 more abortions, and 200 more pregnancy-related deaths. 

How does that protect life?  The evidence is overwhelming that the absence of family planning not only means more unsafe abortions, but higher birth rates, 95 percent of which occur in the poorest countries that cannot feed or provide jobs for their people today.

I would say to the ideologues in the White House who think that the way to protect life is to cut off funding for family planning, they don’t know what they are talking about.  These are the same people who support vastly expanding the Mexico City Policy beyond President Ronald Reagan and both President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush, to all global health funding.  In fact, they will be responsible for more abortions, higher rates of child mortality, higher rates of maternal death, and greater suffering.

This is a shocking proposal.  They either don’t realize how much harm and suffering it would cause, or they don’t care.  Can you imagine if our government, in addition to trying to outlaw abortion, tried to take away the contraceptives Americans rely on to prevent unwanted pregnancies?  Tens of millions of Americans depend on access to modern family planning services every day.  The outcry would be immediate, and it would be deafening. 

I am confident that the Congress will reject this unwise and cruel proposal.  It would be unconstitutional in this country, and it should not be imposed on millions of impoverished people in the developing countries who depend on our assistance.

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