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Taking the Lead

The Catalyst

CEO CORNER

Taking the Lead


There’s no point in sugar-coating it: The Trump-Pence administration’s proposal to reduce the United States’ international family-planning budget to zero is a clear abdication of leadership.

To help fill this impending leadership gap, PAI is working harder than ever with our partners around the globe to advocate for better family planning services locally. Most recently, we came together with policymakers, donors and advocates at the 2017 Family Planning Summit in London. There, we reaffirmed our commitment to the rights of women and girls to decide freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have.

My time at the Summit underscored the importance of PAI’s partnerships with local advocacy organizations in developing countries. With our financial support and advocacy coaching, our partners are able to advance reproductive rights in their own countries.

This hallmark of PAI’s work resulted in approximately $600,000 in budget allocations for family planning and reproductive health services in 2016 in countries as diverse as India, Haiti, and South Sudan – whose $21,000 commitment makes it one of the newest countries to make a commitment to advance women and girls access to health services at the 2017 Family Planning Summit.

While still more resources are needed, this work will help to ensure more women and girls have access to high-quality family planning services and supplies, strengthen health systems and reduce donor dependency for family planning funding. It is one piece of a larger puzzle that we are helping create even as our own president turns his back.

Thank you for supporting this critical work, and helping us craft a new way forward.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Ehlers
President and CEO


A ZERO-SUM GAME

The Trump-Pence administration proposes cutting funding for international family planning completely. PAI is determined to not let that happen.

Zero, zilch, nada, nothing, niente, rien. However you say it, in whatever language, it adds up to the same thing: 0.

It’s also the amount of funding the Trump-Pence administration commits to international family planning and reproductive health programs in its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. Released on May 23rd, the Trump-Pence budget, if passed, would eliminate a total of $607.5 million designated for critical family planning programs in the current fiscal budget. Trump’s budget marks the first time since the US began providing international family planning assistance in 1965 that a proposal to completely eliminate family planning was sent to Congress for consideration.

If this budget request were to pass, the effect on women and girls in developing countries would be catastrophic.  The Guttmacher Institute estimates that Trump’s proposal would result in 3.1 million more abortions; 15,000 more maternal deaths; 7.4 more unintended pregnancies and 25 million fewer women and couples receiving services.

“By zeroing out international family planning, the Trump administration demonstrates its flagrant disregard for human lives,” said Jonathan Rucks, PAI’s director of advocacy.  “This budget would ensure that millions more are left without access to care, imperiling global health systems.”

Trump’s budget request sends a strong signal to Congress, that depriving women and girls in developing countries of access to one of the most effective interventions in the history of public health is more than ok with this Administration. If enacted—the harmful cuts to aid, the Global Gag Rule, and denying funding to UNFPA will have a devastating impact on health services around the world and undercut decades of U.S. global health leadership.

For decades, the United States has led the world in supporting international health programs because of our commitment to advancing women’s rights, abolishing global poverty and empowering fledgling democracies. PAI strongly believes that the U.S role as a global power and defender of sexual and reproductive health and rights should not be ceded or sidelined. Unfortunately, this administration believes otherwise.

Because of your ongoing support, PAI is already fighting these attacks on girls, women and their families. As you’ll see on pages 2-3, we provide funding and support to organizations in developing countries intent on improving their own country’s reproductive health and rights. And, on page 4, a profile of a PAI veteran demonstrates our expertise in helping Congress fight proposals as potentially damaging as the Trump-Pence budget.


A FRUITFUL COLLABORATIVE EFFORT

As U.S. support for international health programs ebbs and flows, PAI continues to help developing countries advance their own family-planning policies and services. 

Since PAI was founded more than 50 years ago, one of our steadfast beliefs has been that family planning and reproductive health services should be supported worldwide, not just in developed countries. We have partnered with over 100 organizations and agencies abroad to help them advocate for resources and policies that improve access to high-quality family planning services.

In 2016 alone, PAI issued $1.8 million in grants to 55 partners in 22 countries. The goal, however, is not to throw money at a “problem,” but to provide training and guidance that helps grow true grassroots efforts.

“For me, PAI is more than a partner,” explains Fadhili Msuri, CEO of the Kenya Muslim Youth Development Organization. “When we started, they took us on a journey. There was constant communication, and they gave us the space to implement. They even saw that where PAI could only provide a glass, someone else could provide a spoon, so that we can enjoy a whole meal. And we have seen it bearing fruit.”

Other examples of the fruits of PAI’s partnerships are cited on the map, with more policy and funding wins found here and here. These collaborations would not be possible without the generous contributions of PAI donors.


NOW MORE THAN EVER


With the Trump-Pence administration proposing to eliminate international family-planning funding altogether, we talked to PAI’s Senior Fellow, Craig Lasher, to understand why PAI’s expertise is needed now more than ever.

Craig Lasher was a graduate student in Washington, D.C. focused on international relations when he saw an internship at PAI posted on a bulletin board flyer.  That was 1981. Come September, Lasher, a senior fellow at PAI, will have been with the organization for 36 years. And it’s quite possible he’s never been needed more than now.

“Craig has institutional memory and knows the U.S. budget process inside and out,” says PAI President and CEO, Suzanne Ehlers. “His expertise on this issue is truly valuable to PAI and to others working to protect international family planning assistance.”

PAI is a leader of the advocacy community with regards to family planning. We know about members’ voting records, we know what’s possible, we help create legislative strategy. We meet with staff to persuade them about the wisdom of the strategy.

Lasher himself says he’s never seen anything like this.  When he began working at PAI – first as an unpaid intern, then as a full-time staff person – the political landscape in Washington was much different.  There was far less dysfunction and much greater bipartisan support for family planning.

“Trump’s a whole different animal,” Lasher says. “The Trump-Pence administration has clearly put a bulls-eye on family planning and reproductive health programs. The budget request to zero out the program adds insult to injury to the radical expansion of the Global Gag Rule in January.  And it’s highly political. You can’t divorce this from the attacks on Planned Parenthood and on domestic family-planning programs.”

Zeroing out also sends the wrong signal—that, for the first time, “the United States is considering abdicating its historic role as a world leader on international family planning,” he says.

But that’s where PAI, and its influence on Capitol Hill, comes in. “PAI is a leader of the advocacy community with regards to family planning,” Lasher explains. “We know about members’ voting records, we know what’s possible, we help create legislative strategy. We meet with staff to persuade them about the wisdom of the strategy.”

But it’s not just PAI’s advocacy leadership that has kept him around for 36 years.  Lasher also says he stays at PAI because “the staff and the board of this organization have been its greatest assets over the years.  PAI is the best place to work, if you want to work on these issues. There’s no place I’d rather be.”


WHAT CAN YOU DO?

The Senate will begin budget negotiations in September, so now is the perfect time to advocate for those who benefit from international family-planning programs. We urge you to call your Senators, whom you’ll find listed along with a proposed script at www.pai.org/callyourrep.

Thank you for joining the fight!

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