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House, Senate at Odds on FY2013 Global Family Planning Budget, UNFPA, Global Gag Rule

The House and Senate appropriations committees approved their respective fiscal year 2013 budgets for global family planning assistance, setting the stage for heated negotiations later this year.

While the House voted to cut international family planning funding to $461 million (nearly 25% below current levels and more than $180 million below President Barack Obama’s request), the Senate is looking to increase the family planning budget to $700 million. The proposed cuts by the House would deny contraceptive services to some 7.7 million women and couples, resulting in 2.2 million more unintended pregnancies and more than 745,000 unsafe abortions, according to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute.

The two houses are also at odds over funding the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The House seeks to defund the UNFPA (the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance), while the Senate allocated $44.5 million to support it.

A third point of contention in the bill involves the Global Gag Rule (GGR), a policy that has been proved to harm women’s health worldwide. Also known as the Mexico City Policy, the GGR denies U.S. aid to any overseas organization that promotes or offers abortion services, even if the services are legal in the country and funded with non-U.S. money.

While the House Appropriations Committee proposed to codify the GGR, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to permanently repeal the GGR, through an amendment introduced by Committee Chairman Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). First introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the policy has been repealed and reinstated by different administrations through executive order.

The GGR has had a detrimental effect on women’s health. A recent study by researchers at Stanford University found a dramatic rise in induced abortions in the African countries that experienced the greatest funding cuts as a result of the policy. Reduced access to reproductive health services may have led women to substitute abortion for contraception. Every year, more than 20 million women resort to unsafe abortions, which account for 46,500 annual deaths—13% of all maternal deaths.

The full House and Senate will vote on their respective bills before ironing out a single budget for signature by President Obama.

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