By Brian Dixon, Senior Vice President
Earlier today the House Appropriations Committee finished its work on the Fiscal Year 2016 State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.
The bill slashes funding for family planning programs in the developing world by almost $150 million—limiting funding for international family planning programs to “not more than $461 million.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) offered an amendment to lift that funding cap. The amendment failed by a vote of 21-30.
On top of slashing overall funding, the bill also bans any U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) despite its work to expand access to birth control, prevent and treat obstetric fistula, eliminate female genital mutilation, ensure access to basic reproductive health care to women in emergency situations, end the practice of child marriage, and eliminate coercive practices in China. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment to remove that funding ban so that UNFPA can do its vital work. The amendment failed on a voice vote.
The bill also calls for a reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, one of the most misguided and mean-spirited policies ever created. It bans family planning aid to foreign health care agencies that use other, private funding to provide legal abortion, to offer counselling or referrals on legal abortion, or that publicly support a policy of legal abortion within their own countries. It effectively disqualifies the most effective, experienced, and respected family planning providers in the developing world from receiving U.S. aid. The results are disastrous.
When it was last imposed from 2001 to 2009 it caused clinics to close, services to be cut back, and contraceptive supplies to run dry. It’s no surprise, then, that researchers from Stanford University found that it also caused the incidence of abortion in several African countries affected by the policy to double over that period. Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) offered an amendment to remove the Gag Rule language from the bill and replace it with a provision to permanently repeal the Gag Rule. Again, the amendment failed, by a vote of 22-29.
The bill is now on track to go to the House floor for a vote by the full chamber. We will keep you informed of its progress.