In a clear statement of his priorities, President Trump used his first budget release to ramp up strikes against women’s health and rights globally. The President’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposes the complete elimination of all funding for reproductive health and family planning, a devastating cut that comes amid more than $2 billion in overall reductions to global health funding.
Trump’s budget is the latest in a string of attacks on women and girls. Since taking office, President Trump has targeted women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights by expanding the Global Gag Rule to apply to all global health funding and by cutting off funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
If enacted, the consequences would be catastrophic. The United States is the largest funder of reproductive health services globally. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the United States provides contraceptives for more than 26 million women in the Global South, preventing 8 million unintended pregnancies, 3.3 million induced abortions (most of them unsafe), and 15,000 maternal deaths every year.
Funding for reproductive health does more than improve women’s health: it helps to create the conditions that allow women and girls to make decisions about and have control over their lives. Cutting off access to contraceptives would also hinder girls’ and women’s education and undermine their ability to earn sustainable incomes and participate actively in society.
While family planning and reproductive health take a particularly devastating hit in Trump’s budget, programs across the global health account are slashed. The President’s budget calls for a 17 percent cut to HIV programs, including PEPFAR and US contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Slashing funding for HIV would undo progress made over more than a decade, jeopardizing the lives of 12 million people now on lifesaving treatment. It could hobble PEPFAR’s groundbreaking efforts to reach those most at risk of HIV with evidence-based interventions, like DREAMS, which aims to prevent HIV among adolescent girls and young women in the countries where they are disproportionately affected. Reductions to PEPFAR funding of this scale would have very real and disastrous effects for the millions of people around the world who benefit from its prevention, care, and treatment programs.
The cuts to global health spending come in the context of a crippling reduction of over 32 percent to the budgets of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department. Slashing these budgets undermines US development and security priorities and further erodes its global leadership. It also significantly reduces the United States’ global diplomatic footprint, forcing the closure of USAID offices in as many as 35 countries.
Historically, US funding for foreign assistance has accounted for less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Cuts of this magnitude will do little to reduce the budget but will significantly damage the United States’ moral standing and influence in the world. Upon the release of the budget, Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee responsible for international spending, concluded, “If we implemented this budget, we’d have to retreat from the world and put a lot of people at risk.” This budget is the clearest example yet of the Trump Administration’s repudiation of multilateralism: it sends the clear message that America is turning its back on the world.
Among the cuts is the apparent elimination of funding for US contributions to United Nations agencies, like UN Women, the UN Development Program (UNDP), and UNICEF. The proposed budget would also reduce funding for US dues to the UN and World Health Organization, as well as for UN peacekeeping operations. Stephanie Dujarric, a UN spokesperson, said that the cuts would “simply make it impossible for the UN to continue all of its essential work.”
Trump’s budget would also eliminate funding for development assistance abroad, shifting a much smaller amount into a proposed “Economic and Development Support Fund.” The difference is critical. Development assistance builds the economic, political, and social institutions that improve people’s lives. It includes programs that expand access to clean water and sanitation, respond to violence against women, ensure girls can go to school, and alleviate hunger, among other vital interventions. The proposed Economic and Development Support Fund, in contrast, would first and foremost advance the strategic economic and security interests of the United States. Priorities would include combating terrorism and opening up markets to US businesses, among others.
Women and girls would shoulder the brunt of these changes to development assistance. As their own access to essential support and services is curtailed, they would bear the burden of trying to minimize the impact on their children and families.
Under Trump’s budget, women in the United States would not fare better. The massive proposed cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, housing, and other social support services would hurt women who are already struggling to provide for themselves and their families and further limit their access to sexual and reproductive health care. It would be a travesty of justice.
The Trump Administration’s budget is a wholesale attack on the most marginalized women and girls, both in the United States and around the world. The budget now heads to Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders of both parties have repeatedly referred to Trump’s slash-and-burn proposals as being “dead on arrival.” IWHC calls on Congress to scrap the Trump budget and instead put forward a spending proposal that will save lives, maintain progress toward global development goals, and restore US leadership on women’s health and rights.
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