Last night, the U.S. House passed the FY 2022 State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The bill is an enormous step forward in expanding access to comprehensive reproductive health and family planning and efforts to slow population growth.
First, the bill includes a provision taken from the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act that will prevent a future president from unilaterally reinstating the Global Gag Rule. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this provision. We’ve been fighting for this for decades—and we’re closer now to it becoming law than we have ever been. As you know, the Global Gag Rule disqualifies the most effective, experience and respected providers of family planning around the world from receiving any U.S. support. Even when it’s not in effect, the threat of its return has created a lasting challenge for providers and the people they serve. Passing this is crucial to establishing stable and reliable family planning access for millions of people.
Secondly, the bill provides a total of $830 million for international family planning programs—with $70 million directed to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This represents the first funding increase for the program in more than a decade. While we are pleased with this, it’s important to note that it still falls far short of the resources needed to meet the global unmet need for contraceptives.
And finally, the bill does not include the long standing Helms Amendment provision that restricts the use of foreign assistance funds to provide safe abortion services “as a method of family planning.” Since its adoption in 1973, this law has been imposed as an outright ban on abortion services under all circumstances, even going so far as to prohibit the purchase of equipment necessary to provide care for people suffering complications of unsafe abortion.
Prior to passing the bill, the House defeated two Republican amendments targeting the family planning funding contained in the bill. The first, offered by Rep. Carol Miller would have eliminated $760 million in bilateral (funding granted directly to local health care providers around the world). The second, offered by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) would have eliminated the funding to UNFPA.
The Senate is expected to begin work on this bill in September.