President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget request for international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) takes another significant step toward addressing the contraceptive needs of millions of women and men in developing nations.

The Obama administration is proposing $769.1 million for bilateral and multilateral international FP/RH assistance—a $121 million or 19 percent increase above the $648.5 million that Congress appropriated in FY 2010.  (This funding level is also contained in a continuing resolution keeping the government operating through March 4.)  The proposed increase is especially significant in light of the difficult economic and budgetary climate and the spending freeze being imposed on domestic programs.

The President’s budget request stands in stark contrast to the extreme cuts being proposed by House Republican in a spending bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year.  These cuts will be debated this week and if passed would return the funding level for overseas family planning programs to the woefully inadequate amount of five years ago.

Most of the requested international FP/RH assistance in the President’s FY 2012 budget—$722 million—is for bilateral programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which provides family planning assistance in more than 50 countries.  The bulk is requested within the Global Health and Child Survival (GHCS) account—$625.6 million, an increase of $101 million above current levels.  The remaining $96 million is contained in other bilateral accounts, a $28 million increase above current levels.

Of the $769 million requested overall, $47.5 million is proposed for a U.S. contribution to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides critical FP/RH care in more than 150 countries.  The proposed $7.5 million cut from the current contribution of $55 million is the only disappointing development contained in the President’s request for international FP/RH programs.

Despite the proposed funding increase, family planning still remains out of reach for the 215 million women in developing countries who do not want to become pregnant but need contraception.

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