An Infuriating End to 2019 for Family Planning Advocates

Stacie Murphy, Director of Congressional Relations

Late yesterday, after two short-term continuing resolutions and some performative nail-biting over the potential for a government shutdown, Congress reached an agreement on a final 2020 appropriations package.

I got a look at it this morning, and I was, shall we say, underwhelmed.

Going into negotiations, it looked like there was real potential for some progress on international family planning. The House passed a great bill—$750 million for bilateral programs, $55.5 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and a permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule. The Senate bill was less exciting—$632.5 for bilateral aid, $32.5 for UNFPA, and although there was no Global Gag Rule repeal, there was some language about ensuring access to contraceptives. For a chamber run by Mitch McConnell, it wasn’t terrible.

The final package? No increase for bilateral funding. (I’m having a hard time figuring out how $610 million is a compromise between $750 million and $632.5 million, but maybe that’s just me—math has never been my thing). No increase for UNFPA. And not only is there no mention of the Global Gag Rule, the utterly anodyne Senate language about contraceptive access didn’t even make the cut.

So. Underwhelmed.

But then. THEN.

It turns out that every other global health program got a funding increase. EVERY. OTHER. PROGRAM.

(Breathes deeply through nose.)

That’s … problematic. It sends a certain signal. I have some feelings.

Everyone wants to get out of town for the holidays, so we’re expecting the two bills that make up the funding package to move fast. The House passed the package today, it will probably pass the Senate tomorrow, and Donald Trump is expected to sign it by the end of the week. Official Washington will go on hiatus for a couple of weeks.

I suggest we do the same. Light some candles. Give some gifts. Drink some eggnog. Read some stories. Sing some carols, if that’s your thing. And then come back, rested and renewed.

It’s clear we’ve got some work to do in the new year.

Categories: Blog