Women in the U.S. and around the world lost an unwavering champion back in June. Today, the United Nations Foundation and Planned Parenthood Federation of America are honoring the life and legacy of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg with the third annual International Family Planning Hero Award.
The myriad victories from his 30 years in Congress include fighting to maintain funding for UNFPA, which provides health care and services to women in 150 countries; helping repeal the Global Gag Rule, which barred NGOs receiving U.S. financial aid from using separately obtained non-U.S. funds to educate foreign audiences about the need for safe and legal abortion services; fighting to pass the Affordable Care Act, which gives millions of women in the U.S. access to birth control with no co-pay; and advocating for partnerships with USAID, UNFPA, Every Woman Every Child, Family Planning 2020, and other organizations that work to inform U.S. policymakers about the need for family planning services around the globe.
It’s more important than ever for Congress to continue Senator Lautenberg’s legacy. Reproductive health has become an increasingly political issue, and women, families, and communities are suffering as a result. Worldwide, there are still more than 220 million women who want access to family planning but can’t get it. Research has shown that meeting this unmet need would cut maternal mortality by one-third and infant mortality by up to 20 percent.
Those are impressive results – and increasing U.S. funding for international family planning and reproductive health programs would help turn them from numerical predictions into tangible realities. Such a funding increase would also generate savings in other development programs: every $1 invested in family planning services saves, on average, $2.64 in education, $0.25 in immunization, $1.02 in water and sanitation, and $1.68 in maternal health.
As we honor Senator Lautenberg today, let’s also celebrate his outspoken commitment to helping women get the family planning and reproductive health services they need and want. Let us all speak up and tell today’s Congress that providing access to voluntary family planning isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.