By: Suzanne Ehlers, President and CEO, Population Action International
Like many Americans, I just completed the annual ritual of filing my taxes.
In the process, I noticed, as some of you might have, the box asking whether I wanted to donate $3 of those taxes to the presidential election campaign fund. The fund helps pay for presidential election campaigns, and is designed to level the playing field for candidates.
Now, I don’t know how many people check that box or how much money it brings in. But it got me thinking… What if there was a box for international family planning? If you could allocate $3 of your taxes to women around the world, would you check that box?
I would. Let me tell you why.
Right now, 222 million women in developing countries want to prevent pregnancy, but lack modern contraception. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that it would take $6.7 billion to meet the global demand for family planning – for sufficient access so that every woman could decide for herself the number of children to have. Of that, the U.S. “fair share” is $1 billion.
Or, roughly $3 per American, per year.
Three dollars doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can make a big difference. In fact, every dollar spent on family planning can actually save money in other development areas.
Investments in family planning services reduce the overall costs of maternal and newborn healthcare, and save more lives. And U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) data from seven countries shows that for every dollar invested in family planning and reproductive health, there is significant savings in education, immunization, water and sanitation, and malaria. Savings range from $2 in Ethiopia to up to $9 in Bolivia for every dollar invested.
But that’s just the beginning. New research shows that the ability to delay and space childbearing helps increase women’s participation in the workforce and fosters economic stability.
Bottom line: Investing in family planning means healthier women, healthier families, stronger communities and more equitable societies.
The U.S. has long been a leader in supporting international family planning. Last week, the President released his proposed budget for 2014, which included $635.4 million for international family planning, including $37 million for UNFPA. This number is encouraging, but it still falls short of the country’s “fair share.” And while the demand for contraception is increasing, U.S. support has actually decreased when adjusted for inflation.
Other countries and donors are stepping up to help. At last summer’s London Summit on Family Planning, donor and developing country governments pledged a total of $4.6 billion for family planning. The aim is to halve the number of women with an unmet need for family planning by 2020, a goal now carried forward by the FP2020 global partnership.
PAI is proud to support the ongoing efforts of FP2020, and is committed to closing the gap so that all women have access to the contraception they need. It is a global investment that reaps dividends.
$3 per American per year.
Let’s level the playing field—for all women.
Suzanne Ehlers is the President and CEO of Population Action International. PAI advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment.
PAI is a sponsor of the Women Deliver 2013 conference. To learn more about the upcoming event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 28-30 May, visit: http://www.wd2013.org!