A just-released United Nations (UN) report backed by the world’s top population organizations argues that nations should double their investment in family planning and abortion in poor countries for a total of $24 billion a year, claiming this would dramatically reduce maternal and child deaths and solve a host of social ills.
The report, entitled “Adding it Up: the Costs and Benefits of Investing in Family Planning and Maternal and Newborn Health,” makes the claim that if UN member states invest another $12B a year into “modern family planning,” the world-wide result will include cost savings for poor countries on health, water, sanitation, and social services, a 2/3 reduction of unintended pregnancies, a 70% drop in maternal deaths, a 44% drop in newborn deaths, a 73% reduction in “unsafe” abortions, and a 60% reduction of disabilities.
The report argues that, “if all women wanting to avoid a pregnancy used modern contraceptives, the resulting decline in unintended pregnancies would reduce the cost of providing all of these women with the recommended standard of maternal and newborn care by $5.1 billion—from $6.9 billion to $1.8 billion.”
Authored and funded by the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm, along with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the report received input from leaders of the major population control institutions, including the Population Council, Population Action International, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Safe” abortion is promoted as a way to improve maternal and newborn health in the report. The authors claim that “in 2003, nearly 20 million abortions worldwide—about 47% of all abortions—were unsafe procedures.” To support the claim, the report cites a controversial 2009 Guttmacher paper, written by the same lead author.
Critics argue that the only reason for using maternal and child deaths in the new report stems from the population lobby’s need to create a sense of urgency for donor nations to invest in family planning. The report criticizes that fact that “donor assistance dedicated specifically to family planning has dropped dramatically in absolute dollar amounts since the mid-1990s.”
According to the report, “Family planning and maternal health services should be viewed as interconnected parts of a continuum of care.” As a result, it is unclear how much of the claimed improvements in maternal and child health come from better antenatal care and how much would come from averting births all together through family planning. The authors say, “Compared with contraceptive services, maternal and newborn services are more complex and more difficult to define and measure,” and that “Estimating the benefits of maternal and newborn care is difficult because few studies have examined the issue.”
This is the first time the “Adding it Up” report, first published in 2003, has attempted to use the issue of maternal and child health to justify the need for more funding of global contraceptive and abortion services. According to the report, the analysis was expanded to “include maternal and newborn health care and the synergistic effects of investing simultaneously in this care and family planning.”