Investment in international family planning programs brings enormous
returns in global health, resource security and political stability. I
urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to ensure that these
programs are not subjected to funding cuts or onerous new restrictions
in the final spending bill that congress is negotiating.

For too long, family planning has been treated as little more than a
political football and people all over the world have suffered for it.
Indeed, even today, support for family planning is in doubt in
congress. The House passed spending bill (HR 1) slashed funding for
these critical programs by fully one-third. To exacerbate that cut the
House also voted to reinstate the Global Gag Rule banning funding to
the most experienced, effective and respected private providers of
family planning services in the developing world. Finally, the bill
also prohibits aid to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an
almost universally supported agency working to provide desperately
needed services to women and families in some 150 countries.

Such actions are incomprehensible and inexcusable. There are some 215
million women today who would like to prevent or delay pregnancy, but
have no access to affordable contraceptives. Our support for family
planning programs is critical to move toward a time when every woman in
the world has the ability that many Americans take for granted: to
choose how many children to have and when to have them. Unintended
pregnancy is one of the biggest challenges facing families, communities
and countries around the world. By denying women access to
contraceptives we are undermining our own future.

The Global Gag Rule was repealed by President Obama early in his term
because it was undermining efforts to expand access to contraceptives.
When it was in effect it caused clinics to close, to cut back outreach
efforts, to eliminate community based projects and it created an
enormous shortfall in contraceptive supplies in several countries. It
would be disastrous to bring it back.

It’s time for congress to commit to making real investment in family
planning. That’s why I strongly urge you to include $1 billion in
funding for these programs in the developing world and dedicate $65
million of that for UNFPA. At the same time, do not allow the
reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule.

Thank you for your consideration.


For what it’s worth on a slightly peripheral issue (science teaching), my interest in school, as a student, was the way in which knowledge empowered my understanding and therefore my ability to function using my own resources instead of as a tool of the system. I have seen this happen to a small percentage of my students every year when I was teaching (college level).

We have replaced science in the curriculum from the bottom up we have replaced it with nature study and “fuzzy bunny” (feel-good) compassion lessons. In fact realistic compassion often doesn’t feel good, and nature study is not science. Neither the appreciation of nature nor that nice fuzzy feeling leads to empowerment. I doubt if most teachers want their students to be empowered to know how to function and learn without the help of a teacher.

It is not appropriate to teach students critical empowerment tools for thinking until they are about 12 or 14 years of age, because that’s when they begin to “get it.” However, in our school system now (and we in Texas are working on continuing this into college) we do not teach students how to learn for themselves. We the teachers are “God,” the student must memorize and believe what we say. Only last week I had a friend (college graduate) rant on for about half an hour about how he was taught the names of all the humanoids in his anthropology class, and then they changed them all. Therefore you can’t believe anything in science. He never let me answer, but it is obvious that he was never taught any science. Science has nothing to do with memorizing the names of anything (except you have to have words to talk about things). Science is about learning how things work so we can be empowered not to throw a spanner in the works (spanner is british for wrench). The way to win an argument in that world where only words are real is to believe whatever you believe and don’t let anyone else have a chance to change your belief. The way to grow one’s understanding through science is to discuss/evaluate the issues based on the differences between measurable facts and opinions. To avoid talking about anything because it doesn’t feel good to be wrong — that is the outcome of teaching feel-good “science.” (I’ve had other people tell me “the facts keep changing” and I know very few people who actually know what a fact is, as differentiated from an opinion.)

There is no better tool in our arsenal than real science, starting with the basics, to teach students how to answer questions for themselves and in their communities — and come up with answers that correlate with reality. If we base our behaviors on opinions (as this generation has been taught to do) then we will have continuing massive disasters, because human opinions CAN NOT CHANGE physical facts. However, our teachers are trained in the liberal arts and do not know how to do this for themselves — much less teach students how. The liberal arts (out of curiosity I spent a whole year going to seminars in the department) have an almost entirely different set of critical thinking skills, and that is where our best students tend to go now, because they do get answers that relate to self-empowerment. So whenever they tell us they are teaching critical thinking skills — they are — but those skills involve HUMAN behaviors — not the primal laws of the universe.

And then there is technology, which is not science. Science is the quest to understand how things work in the real world — not our ticket to sell those things to the highest bidder.

So we are in a mess, but it will not help to train more and more students about human behaviors in the absence of aligning those behaviors with reality via the basic sciences. Nor will it help to train more and more students about the power of reductionist science in the hands of humans — without also teaching them both about basic science and about our human responsibilities to each other and to the way the world really does function — that we can’t change. How many of our teachers have even been exposed to these ideas? Why not? So then what do we expect of them or of their students?

How many people at Lawrence Livermore really understand what I just said above? If not, how do they expect to train more scientists who have the compassion to care about the implications of what they are studying and learn biology to go with their physics and their obligation to humanity and the ecosystem?

You have a wonderful project. I feel quite sure you can get funding from the “system” to set this up and it will train people how to make more food. But, really, why do we need more food? The bottom line is that only the ecosystem can make food for us to eat — and the more of the ecosystem resources we use for ourselves to eat, the less likely the ecosystem is to survive with us in it? And the more human suffering will result.

OK? That’s your question for today. Most people answer that this is an interim action for the emergency. I heard that 50 years ago and ever since. What I want to see is someone making some kind of effort to deal with the real problem that causes the emergencies — and teaching all these fine students that there is no such thing as winning unless we address reality itself.

Anne Feeney

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