Washington Memo

Earlier this afternoon, the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee voted to perpetuate the global war on women, approving a bill that includes dangerous cuts to international family planning, reimposes the Global Gag Rule, and bans funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The approved bill, which funds State Department operations and U.S. foreign assistance programs, places a ceiling on funding for family planning and reproductive health programs at $461 million. This is a cut of $149 million—or nearly 25 percent—below current levels. The bill also includes destructive, ideological policy restrictions that undermine access to contraception for poor women in the developing world – a legislative codification of the Global Gag Rule and a prohibition on a U.S. contribution to UNFPA, the lead UN agency on reproductive health issues.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) detailed the negative impact of these short-sighted anti-family planning attacks in her opening statement: “The counterproductive, harmful, and unnecessarily divisive cuts and policy riders – including reinstatement of the global gag rule and a ban on funding for the United National Population Fund – on international family planning programs will leave millions of women without access to critical and often life-saving health services, and will result in 1.4 million more abortions next year. It is unconscionable that the majority insists on including these provisions, which run counter to our shared goals of saving mothers’ and children’s lives, and reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions.”

An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute found that a cut to overseas family planning of this magnitude will result in 7.7 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services and supplies, 2.2 million more unintended pregnancies, and over 1 million more abortions.

During markup, the committee rejected on largely party-line votes three pro-family planning and reproductive health amendments that were offered by Democratic family planning champions in an attempt to rectify the bill’s most blatant attacks.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) offered an amendment that sought to strike the entire section in the bill codifying the Global Gag Rule and prohibiting a U.S. contribution to UNFPA.  The Lowey amendment then designated a $39 million contribution to UNFPA (the President’s FY13 budget request) under the plethora of current law restrictions to prevent U.S. funds from being spent by UNFPA in China or for abortion.  The amendment was rejected on a vote of 23 to 27 with all committee Democrats—joined by Republican Representatives Dent (R-PA) and Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)—supporting, and the majority of committee Republicans opposing.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) followed with an amendment designating $39 million for a U.S. contribution to UNFPA only to support UNFPA programs to prevent and treat obstetric fistula, to promote the abandonment of female genital mutilation and other harmful traditional practices, and to ensure safe childbirth and emergency obstetric care.  The DeLauro amendment dramatically failed on a 24 to 24 tie vote with Democrats again being joined by Republicans Dent and Frelinghuysen in addition to Reps. LaTourette (R-OH) and Lummis (R-WY).

The last pro-UNFPA amendment was offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) which designated $39 million for a U.S. contribution to UNFPA to be used only for family planning services and contraceptive supplies in low-income sub-Saharan African countries where USAID does not provide family planning assistance, specifically Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Togo.  The Lee amendment was defeated on a vote of 22 to 27.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced at the conclusion of the markup that the intent is to bring the bill to the House floor in June after the Memorial Day recess.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee is tentatively scheduled to take up its version of a FY 2013 State Department-Foreign Operations bill next week and is widely expected to produce a bill that is the complete opposite of the House legislation. It is expected to include a robust family planning funding level, a permanent legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule, and a U.S. contribution to UNFPA.  The diametrically-opposed bills emerging from the House and Senate will set the stage for the high-stakes negotiations on a final bill, not anticipated to occur until after the November election during a “lame duck” session of Congress.

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