By Brian Dixon, Senior Vice President
Republican leaders in the U.S. House just unveiled the FY2016 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. And it will cripple family planning and reproductive health care services to the most vulnerable women in the world. Have they been reading about the needs of women in Nigeria? In Nepal? In Syria? Or do they just not care?
In Nepal, the devastating earthquakes have left some 2 million women and girls in desperate need of reproductive health services. In Nigeria, hundreds of women and girls rescued from Boko Haram are pregnant. Women fleeing the violence in Syria still need to prevent unwanted pregnancies or deliver safely. In all of these situations, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is the agency leading the global effort to meet their needs. But the Republicans’ bill will block all aid to UNFPA.
It will also slash overall funding for family planning and reproductive health by $150 million from its already inadequate level. This despite the fact that there are at least 225 million women in the developing world who want to prevent or delay pregnancy but have no access to appropriate and affordable contraceptives.
Oh, but it gets worse. The bill will also impose the odious Global Gag Rule – a policy that disqualifies the most experienced, effective, and respected providers of family planning from U.S. assistance. Why? Because those providers are unwilling to sign a pledge to never even discuss legal abortion with their patients or their governments. Of course they’re not, because safe abortion is a critical component of women’s health care.
The bill is a travesty. We’re already working with our allies in Congress to develop amendments to undo the draconian cut in overall funding, to restore aid to UNFPA, and to block the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule. We expect the Appropriations Committee to take up the bill next week.