Yesterday, after a contentious election cycle, Donald Trump was elected the next President of the United States. As the 45th official to the hold the office, Trump will set the agenda for international development and global reproductive health issues, where he holds no voting record and has not issued comprehensive policy positions throughout his campaign. As the US government is currently the largest bilateral donor of family planning in the world and supports voluntary family planning and reproductive health programs in nearly 40 countries, it is critical that Trump supports women’s health and rights.
Family planning is crucial to prevent unintended pregnancies, maternal and infant deaths and unsafe abortions in the US and around the world. US funding for international family planning enables government agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), global partners like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and implementers like Marie Stopes International (MSI) to deliver services for underserved women and girls. In addition, this funding alleviates extreme poverty and improves women’s opportunities for education, employment and participation in their communities.
In many settings, the infrastructure MSI has built to deliver reproductive health services has benefits far beyond family planning. One recent example of how US government’s contribution to UNFPA helped MSI provide lifesaving services occurred in Nepal last year. As one of the key reproductive health care providers in the country, Marie Stopes Nepal was positioned to offer lifesaving health care when disaster struck.
Disaster in Nepal
In April 2015, Nepal experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake followed by aftershocks and subsequent deadly hits. The results were devastating: nearly 9,000 people were killed, and more than 22,000 others were injured. It’s estimated that the earthquake affected 1.4 million women and girls of reproductive age in the hardest-hit districts, including 93,000 pregnant women. Each month following the earthquake, more than 10,000 women in childbirth required emergency obstetric care.
Access to contraceptive care became more important than ever as women’s and girls’ already existing vulnerability to sexual assault and rape increased. Research shows that rates of sexual violence grow as families flee the safety of their homes, often to crowded camps or remote areas where they must travel to access food, water or firewood.
The health infrastructure also was destroyed from huge losses to public facilities, made worse by injury and death to frontline providers, damaged roads, and broken supply chains preventing medicine and supplies from reaching those in need. Remote communities, already isolated, were disproportionately impacted following the earthquake.
US funding and supportive policies for international development and family planning programs make a lifesaving difference for underserved women and families around the world. Without it, MSI and our partners wouldn’t have been able to reach vulnerable communities in Nepal, or in other high-risk environments like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. The new Trump administration must prioritize women and girls’ health, including expanding access to reproductive health care that improves health outcomes and increases economic opportunity, everyday—and when disaster strikes.
It’s unknown where Trump will fall in his funding for women’s sexual and reproductive health care, but we do know that MSI will continue to be there, reaching the women and girls who need us most.
Pitch in to ensure that no matter what changes come in January 2017, underserved women around the world have access to contraceptive choice.