Other Report

PrintPrint CiteCite
Style: MLAAPAChicago Close


Family Planning and U.S. Foreign Policy

Ensuring U.S. Leadership for Healthy Families and Communities and Prosperous, Stable Societies

Authors: Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative; Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, and , Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy

Family Planning and U.S. Foreign Policy - family-planning-and-us-foreign-policy

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date April 2011

40 pages


Women today are recognized as critical to reducing poverty, boosting economic growth and agricultural productivity, promoting environmental sustainability, and raising healthy and well-educated children—steps that are imperative to confronting myriad pressing foreign policy challenges around the globe. Investments in international voluntary family planning programs give women the tools to make important decisions about the size of their families and the spacing of their pregnancies, better enabling them to be linchpins of positive change in their communities. An increased prioritization of family planning has the additional benefit of strengthening U.S. foreign policy priorities as they relate to economic development, international security, and environmental sustainability.

Given its centrality to many pressing foreign policy issues and its demonstrated high return on investment, international family planning is an area of assistance that deserves greater priority. The report recommends that the United States expand its leadership role in creating healthy, resilient families in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world as a critical objective of U.S. foreign policy. While there are many important components of that vision, international family planning should be a main aspect. The U.S. government should prioritize family planning in U.S. foreign policy, increase U.S. funding for voluntary international family planning, increase access to family planning services, encourage support for women's health within countries receiving aid, and expand resources into countries with highest unmet need.

More About This Publication

Isobel Coleman is a senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she directs the Women and Foreign Policy program and the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy initiative. She is the author of numerous publications, including her critically acclaimed book Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East. Prior to joining CFR, Coleman was chief executive officer of a health-care services company and a partner with McKinsey & Co. in New York. A Marshall scholar, she holds a BA in public policy and East Asian studies from Princeton University and MPhil and DPhil degrees in international relations from Oxford University.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is the deputy director of CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program. Prior to joining CFR, Lemmon covered public policy and emerging markets for the global investment firm PIMCO, after working for nearly a decade as a journalist with the ABC News political unit and This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Gayle has reported on entrepreneurs in conflict and postconflict regions for the Financial Times, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Daily Beast, and Christian Science Monitor, along with Ms. magazine, Bloomberg, Politico, and the Huffington Post. She is also the author of the best-selling book The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Lemmon earned a BA in journalism summa cum laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

More on This Topic


Family Planning for a Healthier Population

Author: Isobel Coleman
Encyclopedia Britannica Blog

Isobel Coleman argues that increased access to voluntary family planning is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve health and reduce...