UN Chief abandons transparency on funding for reproductive health

The push for 'integration' in reproductive health has been a strategy to hide abortion within a broader uncontroversial health agenda with popular and political support.
Fri Apr 15, 2016 - 11:59 am EST
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UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon photo story /

April 15, 2016 (C-Fam) – The UN Secretary-General failed to produce an annual report tracking funding for reproductive health that served as an important oversight and accountability tool for nearly 20 years.

Ban ki-Moon declined to produce the annual report, although it is required, citing the difficulty of estimating expenditures for different areas of reproductive health and their increasingly “integrated” character—something the Secretary General has been pushing over the past decade.

This week Ban invited the Commission on Population and Development to consider changing the methodology and focus of the report. He suggested the methodology used by UNFPA and the Guttmacher Institute in the “Adding it Up” report released two years ago, which recommends spending more money on family planning in order to avoid spending on maternal health care.

This approach would hand over a critical monitoring function to the very groups that need to be monitored. It uses the discredited measure of “unmet need” for family planning as a justification for reducing spending on maternal health, and claims that children’s lives will be saved by contraception—which, ironically, will prevent their very existence.

In this approach, shared by Ban’s Every Woman Every Child initiative, maternal health is increasingly neglected or diluted in favor of programs that fund family planning and abortion advocacy, and recently even LGBT advocacy.

Since 1997 the Secretary-General has prepared a report that tracks global foreign aid and domestic resource funding to family planning, basic reproductive health services, which include maternal health, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS prevention activities, basic research, and policy analysis on matters of population and development. Although imperfect, the information is highly useful and the report provided a basis for monitoring and accountability.

The Secretary-General’s staff would estimate the resources required to meet UN targets in each of the four focus areas of the report. This helped poor countries gauge the priorities of donor countries and adjust their positions on UN policy and requests for aid accordingly.

The push for “integration” in reproductive health has been a strategy to hide abortion within a broader uncontroversial health agenda with popular and political support. It makes it harder for governments to stop abortion funding without hampering otherwise positive efforts.

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The strategy goes hand in hand with the current assault by abortion groups on U.S. laws that block funding for abortions and abortion advocacy. So long as bans on government funding of abortion such as the Helms amendment are in place abortion groups cannot hide their activities under the heading of “reproductive health” or even “maternal health.”

Without the report, all the money flowing to reproductive health will be considered in one “integrated sexual and reproductive health services” pot, even though different areas of reproductive health require dissimilar interventions and expenses. For example, maternal health care requires skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care, which are considerably more expensive than providing family planning through low-skill and low-education community workers.

Declining to provide this accounting will result in even more confusion as to where resources are flowing. Spending on certain areas of reproductive health are already difficult to track even under the current accounting.

Funding for maternal health care, which has been historically underfunded compared to fertility reduction policies, is not distinguished from reproductive health more broadly under the current accounting.

Reprinted with permission from C-Fam.

  abortion, ban ki-moon, contraception, maternal health, reproductive health, united nations

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