Population Matters

It Could Have Been Worse

December 23rd, 2011

The deadlock over the payroll tax cut extension having been resolved, Congress is now concluding the 1st session of the 112th Congress.  From the standpoint of family planning, it could have been worse…a whole lot worse.

When the new Congress was sworn in this past January, family planning advocates knew that it was going to be a rough year. With the change in House leadership, we anticipated that there would be an effort in the House to trim support for international family planning assistance.  And we knew that there would be an attempt to defund UNFPA.   What was feared, but not expected, was that Congressional opponents of family planning would seek to defund the clinics run by Planned Parenthood and to eliminate altogether Title X, the forty-year old program that has done so much to improve reproductive health and expand family planning options for low-income women in this country.

Funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X survived, and so did international family planning assistance. The omnibus appropriations bill approved by Congress this month froze bilateral international family planning assistance at last year’s level of $575 million, but cut funding for the United Nations Population Fund from $40 million to $35 million. While the cut in funding for UNFPA was a setback, House opponents of family planning failed in their efforts to slash the funding levels by 25 percent.  House-led efforts to repeal the global “gag rule” were also rebuffed.

The FY2012 appropriation for international family planning is far below the $1 billion appropriation level recommended by our organization and other members of the International Family Planning Coalition, but given the political opposition that we faced, we can be thankful that steep cuts were not enacted.  Everyone who spoke out this year in support of family planning, domestic and international, should be sure to thank those Congressional leaders who were so instrumental in staving off this year’s attacks.

The battle, of course, is not over.  In a few weeks, Congress will return for the 2nd Session of the 112th Congress, and the political tug-of-war will resume.  In the meantime, however, the Population Institute wishes to thank all those organizations and individuals who spoke up this year on behalf of women, family planning, and reproductive health and rights.

Posted by Robert J. Walker, President


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