The Trump administration announced potentially devastating funding cuts to the United Nations Population Fund (formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, or UNFPA) on Tuesday, marking the first movement in Trump's promised cuts to the international human rights organization. The U.S. withdrew its promised contribution of $32.5 million for 2017, which represents just about 3 percent of the UNFPA's annual budget. However, the U.S. was the fourth-biggest donor in 2015 when the nation gave $75 million, leaving the program's long-term future in jeopardy.
Defunding the UNFPA will hurt women worldwide, because every dollar counts when it comes to protecting women's health around the world.
The UNFPA is a division within the larger United Nations organization with a special focus on supporting reproductive health in more than 150 countries around the world. The fund supports various measures of reproductive control, including education, contraception, and abortion, the latter of which apparently doesn't go over well with the Trump administration. According to the U.S. State Department, the decision to rescind the promised funding was based on allegations that the Chinese government forces women to have abortions and sterilization procedures.
"While there is no evidence that UNFPA directly engages in coercive abortions or involuntary sterilizations in China, the agency continues to partner with [China's national family planning agency] on family planning, and thus can be found to support, or participate in the management of China's coercive policies," the State Department claimed in a statement.
The UNFPA's adamantly denied the State Department's allegations, but it seems unlikely to affect the Trump administration's decision. “UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination,” the agency said in a statement.
The program will probably have to manage without the U.S.'s help for the time being, but until there's a new president, here are seven ways women around the world will be hurt by Trump's choice.
Abortion Could Become Internationally Vilified Even Further
The decrease in available services that the UNFPA will likely experience in the wake of the U.S.'s defunding would decrease the educational opportunities for people to learn accurate information about the choice to have a termination. It may create a knowledge vacuum that lets misinformation about abortion spread, further vilifying the already-misunderstood procedure.
Education Rates For Women Will Start To Fall Again
Globally, more than 60 million girls don't attend school, according to the United States Agency for International Development, and mothers who are educated are twice as likely to send their own children to school, according to UNICEF. If more girls start having babies because they don't have the resources and education that the UNFPA is able to provide, the education rate for girls will inevitably fall.
Millions Of Women Will Be More Susceptible To STIs
Without the contraceptive resources and sexual health education that the organization provides, millions more women could get STIs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 2.1 million people globally were infected with HIV in 2015 — expect that number to rise once the resources for UNFPA are diminished.
It Might Lead To Millions Of Deaths
According to the UNFPA, the global maternal mortality rate has decreased from 385 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 216 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. The UNFPA has been a critical part of that decrease since its foundation in 1969, so with less capacity to do their work, the rate could start to rise again. Diminished ability to prevent STIs such as HIV could also kill thousands, or even millions.
Remote Communities Will Become Even More Isolated
UNFPA works in some of the most unreachable places in the world, and volunteers who come into those communities give women and girls powerful opportunities to learn about life outside their small corner of the globe. Without the UNFPA programs, they will have fewer opportunities to interact with different kinds of people, limiting their worldview even more.
Poverty Will Increase, Thereby Increasing The Likelihood Of Terrorism And Religious Extremism
Early or unplanned motherhood drastically increases a woman's risk of living in poverty, and the UNFPA operates in some of the world's "most fragile" countries, such as Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. Although the topic is still highly debated among international scholars, some evidence supports the idea that poverty, combined with regional influences, leaves people susceptible to adopting terrorist or religious extremist ideals as a way of coping with the world.
It Will Prevent Women From Reaching Their Full Potential & Sharing It With The World
The lack of access to sexual education and contraceptives will increase the birth rate in the communities where UNFPA works, trapping women in their communities and prevent them from opportunities like travel and higher education. That's a detriment to every single person in the world, because the best way to understand each other is through exposure, and it works best if all people have more mobility.
It's a tragedy that one decision has to disadvantage and directly harm millions of women around the world. This decision by the Trump administration is a clear sign that his supposed commitment to women's empowerment is a farce, and one that could end up hurting millions of women in the process.