USAID raises spending on contraceptives, cuts basic health care

Meagan Clark Contributor
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In the wake of a global family planning summit, Catholic activists fear that the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) plans to spend more on contraceptives in the developing world will decrease spending on basic health care for mothers and children.

USAID has planned since February to reduce their spending by more than $100 million on maternal and child health, nutrition, vulnerable children and treatment for malaria, influenza, tuberculosis and other public health threats. They will also reduce spending on HIV/AIDS by $213 million.

Yet USAID has also planned to spend $530 million in 2013 to provide contraceptives to women in developing countries, $6 million more than in 2012.

“They see this as the most cost-effective way to achieve their goals,” Timothy Herrmann, UN representative for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Network, said. “Instead of increasing prenatal care, which is more expensive, they would rather buy contraception.”

According to family planning proponents, every dollar spent on contraception can save governments up to six dollars on health care, housing, water and other public services. They also claim the effort would prevent more than 75 million unintended pregnancies, 200,000 maternal deaths and nearly 3 million infant deaths.

According to Herrmann, many women in developing countries want to have children and do not want contraception. “They don’t see people as people,” he said, and that is the “strangeness” in their logic.

“They tell these people, especially women, many of whom have access to modern methods of family planning, that it is their right to use those methods, even though, given their strong insistence, it seems to be less of a right than an obligation,” Herrmann blogged.

Herrmann also argues that global birth rates did not decrease because of contraception but because of education and economic progress. He believes education, rather than contraceptives, would best lift the poor out of poverty.

According to the World Health Organization, 11 percent of women across the world ages 15-49 wanted, but did not have access to, contraception in 2008.

USAID is part of a larger effort behind an initiative to provide 120 million women with contraceptives by 2020, a $4 billion effort pushed by Melinda Gates, Catholic wife of Microsoft giant Bill Gates and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Gates Foundation largely sponsored a global summit in London Wednesday attended by leaders from more than 20 developed and developing countries. On behalf of their governments, organizations or personal pockets, they have pledged more than $4.6 billion.

The United Kingdom government, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other international organizations co-hosted the event.

Reduced spending on basic health needs of the poor may also cast doubt on the completion of global health goals.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has emphasized vaccines and improved child delivery care as key factors in reducing child mortality, a UN Millenium Development Goal. Multiple press representatives did not respond for comment.

In addition, part of President Obama’s stated global development policy values “sustainable systems for meeting basic human needs.”

Others critics of expanding contraception to the poorest rings of society compare Gates’ push to the eugenics movement, which “helped” the less fortunate by simply eliminating them.

The Gates Foundation forked over more than $437 million for population control efforts in 2009, making up 81 percent of foundation donations to UNFPA.

When Melinda Gates appeared on The Colbert Report June 27, Stephen Colbert joked that contraception is “not necessarily saving people’s lives, so much as it’s stopping people’s lives from existing.”

He later joked, “If this succeeds … isn’t there a danger that there will stop being poor people and you’ll have nothing to do?”

“I look forward to that day,” Gates responded.

The audience cheered.

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