Population Matters

Key Budget Battle Looms for International Family Planning

September 26th, 2011

Happy World Contraception Day! In the on-going war on women a key budget battle is looming over contraception. The opening salvo of this fight came in late July when the House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee approved a 25% cut in international family planning assistance for FY2012.

Along with the cut in funding, the Subcommittee also voted for two policy-related restrictions: a ban on any support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and reinstatement of the global “gag rule” that President Obama repealed by executive order during his first month in office. The gag rule prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. family planning assistance from using their own non-U.S. funds to perform abortions.  In countries where abortion is legal, it also bars them from referring patients to an abortion service provider. In countries where abortion is illegal, it bars family planning providers from advocating for its legalization.

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee fired back with their response and approved a State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 that would provide $700 million for international family planning assistance, including $40 million for the United Nations Population Fund.  The Senate action would boost funding by $85 million over this year’s appropriation level ($615 million).  The Committee rejected the House’s position on the gag rule, and voted to make President Obama’s repeal of the gag rule permanent.

The Senate Committee’s action sets up a budget battle with the House that will have to be resolved through upcoming House-Senate negotiations. The new fiscal year begins on October 1, but neither the House nor the Senate is expected to complete action on the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill by that date.  Congress in the next few days is expected to pass a “continuing resolution” that will provide temporary funding for federal programs until agreement can be reached on a final “omnibus” appropriation bill for next year.

The result of this battle will have profound impacts on the lives of women around the world. The Guttmacher Institute has calculated that cutting U.S. family planning assistance by 25% would result in:

·         9.4 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services

·         Almost 3 million more unintended pregnancies

·         1.3 million more abortions (mostly unsafe)

·         1.3 million more unplanned births

·         7,700 more maternal deaths

There is still time to tell Congress that family planning and reproductive health care services are vital to the health and well-being of women and their families in the developing world. Make your voices heard…before it’s too late.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

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