With Congress back in session, there is much speculation as to what they will actually accomplish. As many voters are aware, the issue of contraception was front and center in campaign messaging and ads in a number of states and districts during the November election.
However, this issue did not end on Election Day, and with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, we can expect to see legislation aimed at restricting access to abortion and contraception in the year ahead. In fact, on the very first day of the 114th Congress earlier this week, two House Republicans introduced a measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the United States.
Unfortunately, these attacks on women’s healthcare won’t be contained within our borders.
Possible cuts to the foreign aid budget –and the international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) account in particular—could set back decades of progress on increasing contraceptive access and usage abroad. We will also see continued efforts in the House to eliminate U.S. contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and to reinstate the Global Gag Rule. Unfortunately, there is no longer a pro-FP/RH majority in the Senate to defend against these or other damaging policy “riders”—but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.
Here are a few positive policies to look out for in the 114th Congress. We hope to see these bills and resolutions introduced again by our champions in the House and Senate.
- The Global Democracy Promotion Act would codify into law that the Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) could not be imposed by a future President. The Gag Rule makes foreign NGOs ineligible for U.S. family planning assistance if they use their own non-U.S. funds to provide abortion information, referrals, or services, or to advocate for the legalization of abortion in their countries.
- The Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act authorizes the President to expand access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights. This would ensure individuals and couples can freely and responsibly determine the number, timing, and spacing of their children, while reducing the incidence of unsafe abortion and providing care for women injured through unsafe abortion. This would also provide sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries at every phase of a humanitarian emergency and expand access to integrated family planning and health services.
- The Women and Climate Change Resolution recognizes the impact climate change can have on women while encouraging the President to consider gender in U.S. policies and programs dealing with climate change.
As an advocate, there are steps you can take this session to ensure the U.S. continues to be a leader in international family planning and reproductive health. Encourage members to reintroduce the legislation mentioned above, and reach out to your Member of Congress and Senator to co-sponsor pro-FP/RH legislation and amendments when they are introduced. Thank your members when they vote in opposition to bad policies restricting contraception and abortion access. You can find your member’s contact information here. Now is the time to hold members accountable. The future of women’s health in the U.S. and abroad may hang in the balance.