Gates Foundation’s Family Planning Focus Attacked Unfairly

By Donald A. Collins | 2 December 2016
Church and State

Melinda Gates and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates are co-chairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Photo: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg)

Certainly no surprise that the anti choice crowd would attack Bill and Melinda Gates since their Foundation indeed gives money to Planned Parenthood affiliates around the US. A modest part of these US PP affiliate’s service programs involves providing safe, legal, early abortions to women. Most of PP’s offerings involve counseling on contraception and avoidance of cancer and other women’s health problems.

Yet another instance of such an attack came from an 11/25/16 article on the OneNewNow.com web site, which is operated by the American Family News Network, a conservative organization committed apparently to highly biased reporting on women’s right to choose. AFNN apparently prefers to put women who need help at dangerous risk. One can read this article here.

However, Melinda Gates, a practicing Catholic, has been very clear that she does not personally support abortion.

Now it must be increasingly obvious to Mrs. Gates that expressing her personal beliefs does not provide a defense against being attacked for supporting, even if tangentially, a completely legal and urgently needed health option for women.

As any unbiased observer knows, the Gates Foundation has done truly seminal work in forwarding contraceptive choices worldwide. Mrs. Gates has personally traveled to many difficult places around the developing world and witnessed firsthand the devastation a lack of choice can create.

Possibly Mrs. Gates may feel highly conflicted by what her religion teaches versus what reality forces her to realize is so commonplace and unavoidable in far too many cases.

With over 40 million abortions occurring annually around the world, there unfortunately are large numbers of women who are unable to achieve an abortion safely or early enough in their pregnancies.

The Gates Foundation has generously concentrated its efforts on offering contraceptive choices, which certainly is a major need, often largely unfulfilled by adequate contraceptive supplies.

Another huge gap in contraceptive services is the huge unmet demand for safe, inexpensive sterilizations. A third of all birth control is sterilization.

However, there is a serious shortfall in all reproductive methods worldwide and even in the USA. For example, for patients not covered by health insurance birth control pills cost $20 to $50 per month. Those with health insurance, the cost is $5 to $15 monthly, so the value of giving health insurance to all is economically important for saving everyone money.

Getting these long proven safe pills off prescription would be a huge step, long overdue.

As seasoned providers know, getting all reproductive options to women who want them is not simple, since the power of male dominated monotheistic religions represents a formidable barrier to universal coverage.

Obviously, one foundation even as large and generous as Gates can’t adequately address the reproductive needs of women alone. However, its influence on all such providers is clearly palpable. It is has shown huge leadership in addressing so many urgent health issues and has obvious access to power.

Now that a new more conservative Trump Administration will shortly take office, we can hope that the relatively few foundations such as Gates which have been leaders in providing private family planning funding will be joined by many other private funders who might formerly not have wanted to enter this controversial arena.

In a perhaps very Pollyanna type conjecture, I personally hope that Mr. Trump will be less inclined to attack any of these precious established providers, since that policy can only wreak huge personal havoc on family lives here and abroad.

Let me close by asking a hard question. As contraception programs attempt to serve all who want them, what should be the ideal role for religious debate as secular solutions come up for implementation? Who decides on choice about an unmet secular service already in great demand?

Well, clearly there will never be a definition which can suffice to embrace us all, but as world population climbs to historically record levels of human numbers (8 billion by 2025), we are pushed closer (some argue we are now beyond) to the planetary limits of comfortable human survival.

Perhaps the reportedly pragmatic Mr. Trump, if he is offered sound secular advice from his thoughtful and sophisticated daughters, will agree that only the implementation of the best scientific thinking about our physical realities will ultimately guide humans of all beliefs to a sustainable future on our tiny vulnerable planet.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
ASIN: B00MA40TVE
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