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("USAID Family Planning Program Timeline: 1970s-1980s").
President Regan's successor, President George H.W. Bush, continued to adhere to the Mexico City Policy. In 1993, it was rescinded by President Clinton. President George W. Bush reinstated the policy in 2001 by establishing conditions in the grants awarded to USAID. In addition, President George W. Bush extended the policy to apply to any "voluntary population planning" assistance provided by the Department of State. (Obama).
Progress in family planning policy was made in other areas. The federal government recognized that special attention in providing family planning counseling should be paid to countries where overpopulation threatened biodiversity or endangered species. ("USAID Family Planning Program Timeline: 1990s-2009").
In addition, the federal government, especially USAID, worked to use family planning policy to promote the awareness of HIV disease and to promote health practices that would restrict the spread of such diseases. In 2003, USAID established new guidelines which included new information about how to integrate family planning into HIV-education programs and about how to integrate HIV counseling and services into family planning programs. ("USAID Family Planning Program Timeline: 1990s-2009").
In 2009, shortly after he was inaugurated, President Barack Obama rescinded the Mexico City Policy. He ordered the Secretary of State and the Director of USAID to immediately suspend any of the conditions on grants for family planning, which had been implemented by the executive orders of President Regan, President George H.W. Bush, or President George W. Bush. (Obama).
Analysis of the Value of Promoting Family Planning Through Foreign Policy
Promoting family planning around the world helps achieve a number of objectives that are crucial to advancing the objectives of the foreign policy of the United States, as well as more general objectives related to the protection of human rights. The American government and advocates of human rights all over the world believe that it is important to promote autonomy, self-determination, and economic opportunity, and equal political rights for every person. These qualities are all threatened by the social problems that follow overpopulation, the spread of disease, and the degradation of the environment. Family planning can play an important role in reducing each of these threats to individual liberty and security. Consequently, the promotion of effective family planning must be an important part of United States foreign policy.
As the federal government has recognized since the Kennedy Administration, family planning helps support economic and political independence by promoting economic development for the poor. When improverished families have too many children, they may struggle to provide those children with the basic resources necessary for development: adequate housing, nutitrion, and education. A Kenyan woman described the problem this way: "[y]ou know, the more they keep having children without planning, the resources are not there to support the children anymore." (Wilson).
Overpopulation threatens the integrity of developing countries in other ways. When a country has too many mouths to feed and too many people to house, it can place an enormous strain on its environmental resources, including everything from water to food to air. Clear-cutting rainforests, exhausting natural resources, and the reduction of biodiversity can all be the result of overpopulation. Promoting family planning can reduce these threats to the environment, just as they reduce economic problems.
Effective family planning policy promotes independence and equality for women. When women are unable to control their own reproductive destiny, they can be more easily oppressed and deprived of equal political rights and economic opportunity. Unwanted, unplanned pregnancies can compel women to stay at home, caring for children, instead of finding opportunities for advancement in the marketplace. Even more fundamentally, they can compromise a woman's health, which, in many respects, can be the greatest threat to her autonomy. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, "[t]here's a direct connection between a woman's ability to plan her family, space her pregnancies and give birth safely and her ability to get an education, work outside the home, support her family and participate fully in the life of her community." (Wilson).
Education about family planning can also help stop the spread of HIV. This disease is one of the greatest threats to public health in the world today, especially in Africa and in developing nations elsewhere. Preventing the transmission of HIV can only be accomplished through a broad-based strategy in which every part of a society is informed about the way in which HIV is transmitted and about what can and must be done to prevent such transmission. (Jones). Consequently, family planning programs are an essential part of any policy aimed at the prevention or eventual eradication of HIV. (Jones). When men and women are educated about how certain contraceptive methods can prevent the spread of HIV as well as unwanted pregnancies, two public health objectives can be achieved at once. Indeed, it is impossible to promote education about the prevention of HIV without also promoting good decisions about family planning.
The connection between programs promoting family planning and programs combating the spread of HIV and AIDS is only one illustration of how family planning counseling is an integral part of any effort to promote global public health. As President Obama recognizes in establishing his Global Health Initiative, family planning programs provide crucial assistance in achieving a number of general public health objectives, such as reducing the mortality rate among mothers and children under five. ("Statement by the President on the Global Health Initiative"). Family planning not only contributes to reproductive health for women and children; it also promotes the health of the entire community. Because American foreign policy certainly should act to promote public health around the world, it should promote family planning.
The problems from promoting family planning do not outweigh all of these benefits. The principal objection to family planning education is that such education can be a kind of Trojan horse for information about abortion. According to this viewpoint, if people are educated about family planning, more of them will learn about abortion and therefore more of them will choose to have an abortion. This position depends upon faulty reasoning, however, because it overlooks one crucial aspect of family planning education. By informing people about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place, family planning education reduces the opportunities for abortions. Family planning education likely brings about a net reduction in the number of abortions because it can greatly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. Contrary to the ideas behind the Mexico City Policy and the Helms Amendment, promoting family planning is not a problem that causes more abortions. Instead, it is a solution to the problem of abortion.
Secretary of State Clinton has identified the fundamental goal of American foreign policy. As she stated:
"[w]e advance our security, our prosperity, and our values by improving the material conditions of people's lives around the world. These efforts also lay the groundwork for greater global cooperation, by building the capacity of new partners and tackling shared problems from the ground up." (Clinton).
Promoting family planning through foreign policy is an important way to achieve this goal. Effective family planning improves the prosperity of those who practice it, it improves their health and material conditions, and, by so doing, it enhances their freedom and security. As a result, promoting family planning should be a key element of American Foreign Policy.
Clinton Hillary. Foreign Policy Address at the Council on Foreign Relations, May 5, 2009. U.S. Department of State. Web. May 24, 2010.
Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).
Jones K.A. "New Complexities and Approaches to Global Health Diplomacy: View from the U.S. Department of State." PLoS Med 7(5). Web. May 24, 2010
Obama, Barack. "Memorandum to the Secretary of State: Mexico City Policy and Assistance for Voluntary Population Planning," January 23, 2009. Web. May 24, 2010.
Rehnquist, W.J. Dissenting Opinion in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
"Statement by the President on the Global Health Initiative." White House. Web. May 24, 2010.
USAID. "Family Planning." Web. May 24, 2010.
"USAID Family Planning Program Timeline: Before 1965-1969." Web. May 24, 2010.
"USAID Family Planning Program Timeline: 1970s-1980s." Web. May 24, 2010.
"USAID Family Planning Program Timeline: 1990s-2009." Web. May 24, 2010.
Wilson, Brenda. "A Look at U.S. Policy on Family Planning Abroad." National Public Radio. February 2, 2010. Web. May 24, 2010.
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