World Bank Directors Reject Wolfowitz’s Regressive Family Planning Policy

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and his political appointees have attempted to reverse the institution’s long-standing policy of promoting family planning, despite Wolfowitz’s recent statement, “Our policy hasn’t changed.”

As ThinkProgress noted earlier, a draft of the bank’s pending Strategy for Health, Nutrition, and Population (HNP) mentions family planning just once, in reference to a 2006 reproductive health project in the Caribbean that supported family planning services (p. 120). In contrast, the previous HNP (1997) identified a “lack of access to family planning services as a primary health challenge.” The draft was prepared by the office of managing director Juan Jos© Daboub, a strong proponent of U.S. policy in Iraq whom Wolfowitz hired last year.

Officials at the World Bank have now rejected this regressive family planning policy. In an April 19 memo, eight of the World Bank’s executive directors write:

The directors specifically attack Daboub’s revision of the World Bank’s family planning policies. Some examples of their criticisms:


— “The original document makes virtually no reference to sexual and reproductive health, on a strategic level. This is surprising, considering the Bank has committed almost US$2 billion to sexual and reproductive health over the past 10 years.”

— “The document — including the supplmental note — still does not contain a clear position on how the Bank engages in issues of sexual and reproductive health.”

— “The document and supplemental note place sexual and reproductive health within the context of population policy and contains language, which suggests a limitation of sexual and reproductive health to tackle ‘fertility rates.’ This is not acceptable. … Sexual and reproductive health and family planning are integral parts of health service delivery and, as such, essential for women’s health.”

Even though Wolfowitz is no longer a member of the Bush administration, his World Bank policies continue to support the President’s conservative priorities: promoting abstinence-only policies and conservative ideology over solid scientific research.