Population Matters

Congress: A House Divided

May 16th, 2012

When it comes to issues relating to women, family planning and reproductive health, Congress is a House divided.  Within the next few weeks, the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives will be taking action on international family planning assistance.  For those who are concerned about women and their families in the developing world, the stakes could not be higher.

The House Appropriations Committee this week is expected to take up the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which contains funding for international family planning assistance.  As the bill currently stands it would cut international family planning funding to $461 million. That’s $149 million below the current funding level and $180 million below the President’s request for FY2013. The bill would also cut off all funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

These cutbacks would have a profound impact on women’s lives around the world. According to the Guttmacher Institute a $149 million cut in international family planning assistance would mean:

  • 8 million fewer women in poor countries would receive contraceptives;
  • There would be 2.2 million more unintended pregnancies;
  • There would be 1 million more unplanned births;
  • There would be more than 1 million more abortions (745,000 of which would be unsafe); and
  • 6,000 more women would die from pregnancy related causes.

And in case you think that this is about saving taxpayer’s money, think again.  Family planning, whether here or abroad, substantially reduces expenditures on other health care costs and, dollar for dollar, is perhaps the most effective means of improving the well-being of women and their families.

While the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to approve a large cut in international family planning assistance, the hope is that the U.S. Senate will strongly support the President’s budget request.  But this showdown is far from over.

With the House leadership threatening to fight another battle over the debt ceiling unless more deficit reduction measures are adopted, the level of Congressional funding for international family planning for 2013 and beyond is far from assured.

Now, more than ever, the American people need to let their elected Representatives know how strongly they feel about family planning, both at home and abroad.

Isn’t it time to halt the assault on contraception and reproductive health?

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

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