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Story and Perspective

Restore, Rejoin, Repeal—Reignite the US Government Commitment to Global Health

Lois Quam

Strong global partnerships and policies that advance sexual and reproductive health and rights are at the heart of everything we do at Pathfinder International. When Joe Biden becomes the President of the United States, it is critical that the new administration restore funding to global health partnerships and repeal policies stunting the potential and progress of millions of women and girls.

Pathfinder International unequivocally calls on the Biden-Harris administration to immediately refund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO), and repeal the global gag rule.

Restore funding to UNFPA

The approximately $100 million the United States Government (USG) contributes to UNFPA each year allows essential services to reach women, girls, and communities in isolated and marginalized areas of the world that USG-funded programs do not currently serve—that means millions more are reached with contraception and other forms of support that would otherwise go without. This monetary contribution is just a minute sliver of our $2.3 trillion federal budget, and small portion of all foreign aid. Pathfinder can attest to the value of UNFPA as a critical partner, but UNFPA’s impact is most evident in its statistics:

  • In 2018, UNFPA-supplied contraception prevented 30 million unintended pregnancies.
  • More than 1.8 million girls have avoided child marriages through UNFPA programs.
  • More than 18 million people have been reached with humanitarian assistance, and 1 million babies have been safely delivered in humanitarian and fragile settings with support from UNFPA.

Repeal the global gag rule

The Biden-Harris administration must rescind the global gag rule through an executive order on the first day of the new administration. A day-one executive order will exhibit President Biden’s commitment to protecting and expanding access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe abortion care, and upholding sexual and reproductive health rights. The global gag rule is a policy that harms women, girls, young people, and marginalized communities. Evidence shows that rather than preventing abortions, through the rollback of reproductive health services, the policy contributes to more unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. We will work with Congress, through a majority-democratic Senate, on a permanent repeal of the global gag rule—the only way to fully ensure that women around the world will no longer be subjected to this detrimental policy.

Rejoin the WHO

The WHO plays a key role in family planning, HIV, maternal health, and malaria programs around the world. The United States must rejoin and refund the WHO to ensure foreign assistance in these areas has real impact. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the WHO partners with governments to build health system capacity and work toward the equitable roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. Engaging with the WHO will allow the United States to restore its influence on crucial global health reforms. Because the United States cannot legally withdraw from the WHO until July 2021, rejoining would be simple, and only depends on revoking the withdrawal initiated by President Trump.

These three steps are the beginning of what will be a sustained journey toward re-establishing the United States as the world’s leader and critical partner in advancing global health and ensuring essential health care is within the reach of communities around the world, no matter their circumstance.

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