The World Bank approved a new policy on Health, Nutrition, and Population that preserves language on family planning. The approval comes after Whitney Debeviose, the US representative to the World Bank’s board, proposed to alter language that referred to family planning. Debeviose wanted “reproductive health services” to be replaced with “age appropriate access to sexual and reproductive healthcare,” which would have added major restrictions on young women’s ability to access reproductive health services in developing countries. Representatives from several European countries objected to the proposals, demanding that the World Bank reaffirm its commitment to family planning as part of its greater strategy to reduce global poverty.
Debeviose’s proposal was consistent with World Bank Managing Director Juan Jose Daboub’s changes to a loan program for Madagascar last month. Daboub, who was hired by Bush-appointed World Bank President and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, deleted all references to family planning in the loan program, drawing criticism from family planning advocates. Many are concerned that the World Bank is being too heavily influenced by the Bush administration’s conservative social agenda.
According to Reuters, the United States did not formally submit any objections to the wording of the strategy, so it proceeded as written. Debeviose did, however, add comments to the board’s official minutes to emphasize that nothing in the document should be interpreted as promoting abortion or underage sex.