Population Matters

Family planning under siege?

Family planning under siege?

An intra-uterine device.

A coalition of medical professionals and advocacy groups in the UK has warned that access to contraception is being hit by cuts in funding for public health.

Worldwide, the provision of contraceptive supplies in developing countries is facing a funding shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid. Family planning is also thought by many to be at risk from an incoming administration in the US which is hostile to abortion and sceptical about the value of overseas aid. 

The Advisory Group on Contraception says a third of councils in England have cut, or is considering cutting the number of GP practices able to provide methods such as coils and implants and that a quarter of councils have shut or may close some of their contraceptive services.

Contraceptive services are normally financed by local councils but a cut of £200 million in central government funding to councils for public health in 2015/16 has led to a reduction in services available. Further finance cuts are scheduled up until 2021.

Campaigners have warned that the changes risk an increase in unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

The global picture

In September, a global coalition of family planning organisations warned that a shortfall of $850 million in funding by 2020 for UNFPA Supplies, the largest global fund dedicated to contraceptive supplies for family planning, could “derail” progress towards meeting Sustainable Development Goals. The funding is needed to help meet the goal of the global FP2020 to provide access to contraception for 120 million more women than in 2012 by 2020. FP2020 has currently delivered services to 30 million women but is not on target to meet its goals.

The UK is one of the most generous supporters of family planning through overseas aid but the USA is the greatest donor, currently providing $600 million annually in aid to support reproductive rights.

During his election campaign, President-elect Donald Trump spoke out against abortion and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence has a very strong anti-abortion record in Congress and as governor of Indiana. Concerns have been raised by family planning campaigners that the US may not continue to support overseas aid at the same level under Mr Trump for and that reproductive services may be particularly hard-hit.

Until President Obama reversed the policy in 2009, US aid was not permitted to be given to agencies that provided abortion or information about it. Domestically, concerns over the incoming administration led President Obama to take moves in November to permanently protect funding for abortion and family planning inside the US.