International Population Control

The highly politicized nature of family planning in the United States has had major implications for the developing world. In response to pressures by conservatives, the emphasis of U.S. population programs abroad shifted heavily to programs promoting natural family planning rather than the more reliable methods of artificial contraception. Most notably, the "Mexico City policy" adopted by the Reagan administration in 1984 stipulated that no U.S. aid would go to any international organizations that supported abortion, even if the U.S. funds were separated and used only for nonabortion services. The Mexico City policy was overturned in the early days of the Clinton administration in 1993, thus renewing a commitment on the part of the United States to international family planning efforts after a period of marked decline. The policy again became an issue in the administration of George W. Bush who withheld $34

million in funding for birth control, maternal and child health care and HIV prevention from the United Nations Population Fund in 2002 (Rosenberg; Planned Parenthood; UNFPA Funding Act, 2003). The loss of U.S. funding has a grave impact on UNFPA programs and the people they serve. UNFPA estimated that the $34 million loss would lead to two million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, and 77,000 infant and child deaths. Restoration of U.S. funding would also save lives through HIV prevention campaigns. The $34 million would provide one-third of the annual needs for mass HIV prevention information campaigns aimed at behavior change. It would also cover the cost of 13 per cent of the condoms needed worldwide to prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. President Bush also reversed the U.S. position in support of the 1994 global agreement that affirmed the right of all couples and individuals to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to do so (United Nations; RowBoat). Walking a political tightrope, he then announced major programs to deal with HIV infection abroad.

Family planning issues are an increasingly high priority for many developing nations. Concerns about the ability to feed rapidly growing populations, the dramatic spread of HIV infection and AIDS in the Third World, especially in parts of Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, and the large number of deaths that occur each year from illegal abortions create constituencies for family planning services within these countries. There are, of course, also often significant religious and cultural objections.

The rise of indigenous women's movements in the developing world has also served as a particularly important stimulus for additional family planning services which must be provided in a culturally sensitive manner (Bruce; Dixon-Mueller). The International Women's Health Coalition has been one of the most successful international population groups in terms of its ability to work closely with local, grass roots women's organizations in the design and delivery of family planning programs.

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