February 13, 2018

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 continues his administration’s assault on women and girls globally by seeking massive cuts to programs intended to protect their health and human rights. The proposals to slash funding for reproductive health services, including contraceptives, HIV treatment and prevention, and gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, would create devastating hurdles for the most marginalized women and girls in developing countries.

The newly proposed budget would slash funding for reproductive health by more than half over fiscal year 2017 levels, from $607.5 million to just $302 million. This represents the second largest proposed decrease in reproductive health funding in history, compared to last year when the administration proposed eliminating this funding altogether.  It would further open up funding to organizations that provide only “natural” family planning methods, which despite the administration’s assertions, have proven ineffective in helping women and girls avoid unintended pregnancies. This move would further reduce funds to groups that provide evidence-based reproductive health care.

Other global health budget lines would also suffer serious cuts. The budget proposal cuts for maternal and child health by almost $200 million, a reduction of 24 percent over FY17 levels, including a $25 million cut to the GAVI Alliance, which supports the world’s least developed countries to provide lifesaving immunizations and vaccines to children and adolescents. It would also reduce funding for PEPFAR, the US government’s flagship program to address HIV and AIDS by almost one billion dollars, including a $425 million cut to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  The impact of these cuts will be felt most acutely by women, girls, and other groups who rely on these programs to protect themselves from HIV infection, seek life-saving treatment, and access services that will help them go through pregnancy and childbirth safely. Girls and young women account for 74 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since taking office, President Trump has targeted 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 adopted, today’s budget would gut vital health care services.

The Trump administration is pursuing a budget that has the potential to prove deadly. It must be stopped.

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Photo: Amanda Walker