New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just announced that Bloomberg Philanthropies will be making a $50 million donation towards the Global Family Planning Initiative, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He made this announcement at the London Summit on Family Planning. The goal of the summit was to bring together philanthropists and governments alike in order to provide access to contraceptives and obstetric care to 120 million women in developing countries by the year 2020.
This is not the first time that Bloomberg has donated money in support of family planning and contraception. In February 2012, after the Susan G. Komen foundation cut their financial support of Planned Parenthood, Bloomberg donated $250,000 to make up for the funding they would have lost.
I’m thrilled to see a prominent politician and powerful philanthropist supporting contraception. While many politicians are waging a “War on Women,” it’s heartening to be reminded that this is fundamentally a health issue, not a moral one. Bloomberg estimated in his announcement that access to contraception could save 200,000 lives a year that are currently lost to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Although Bloomberg didn’t mention the AIDS epidemic, it’s easy to imagine just how many more lives would be saved in the developing world with the proliferation of condoms.
As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney searches for a running mate, some might be tempted to suggest Bloomberg as a possible VP. I highly doubt that Romney would offer him this position, or that Bloomberg would accept it. After Obamacare, reproductive rights are one of the most divisive issues right now, and a choice of Bloomberg as VP would potentially alienate Romney from the entire right wing.
More likely is that Bloomberg may be gearing up to run as an independent in 2016. When Bloomberg left the Republican party in summer 2007, many thought they’d see him on the ballot in 2008. Those hoping for a Bloomberg campaign may just have to keep waiting, though: In December 2010, Bloomberg told Meet the Press that he was not considering running for president in 2012.
Until we see further evidence that he’s considering running for president, and even if we do, let’s not assume that his philanthropy is a political ploy. Speculation about possible a campaign shouldn’t detract from our celebration of the good Bloomberg’s donation will do for the world.