The House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee approved $735 million for bilateral and multilateral funding for family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs during their markup of the FY 2011 appropriations bill yesterday afternoon.

Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and her subcommittee approved a $20 million increase for FP/RH above the President’s budget request. This is remarkable given the fact that overall funding in the bill is cut $4 billion below the level that the President proposed to divide among the other priorities within the bill, a number of which did not fare as well.

Any way you measure it, if enacted, the $735 million level proposed for FY 2011 would be a significant increase:

  • 13 percent above the FY 2010 appropriated level of $648.5 million:
  • 3 percent above the President’s FY 2011 budget request of $715.7 million; and
  • over the last three fiscal years, a $271 million—or 58 percent increase.

The $735 million includes $675 million for the bilateral FP/RH programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and $60 million for a U.S. contribution to the UN Population Fund.  Of the $675 million for bilateral programs, $600 million is contained within the Global Health and Child Survival account—a $10 million increase above the President’s request—with the remainder in other accounts, namely Economic Support Funds (ESF) and Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia (AEECA).  The $60 million proposed for UNFPA represents a $5 million increase above the current contribution and $10 million above the amount the President requested.

It is disappointing that the subcommittee did not include a permanent legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule.  Ninety-one House members just signed a letter to Chairwoman Lowey urging her to include the permanent repeal language in her subcommittee’s bill, including nine members of the Appropriations Committee.  In addition, more than 80 House members are cosponsoring a freestanding bill—the Global Democracy Promotion Act (H.R. 4879)—that would enact a permanent legislative ban as well.

The opening statements of Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) help reveal some of the larger politics at play in the decision-making surrounding FP/RH funding and policy issues.  The relevant excerpts and links to the full statements follow below:

Chairwoman Lowey:

  • Voluntary family planning services for families in the developing world remains a priority of this committee. I am proud the mark includes $735 million, $20 million above the request, to give millions of women access to basic reproductive health services. Of this amount, $60 million is for the United Nations Population Fund.
  • This bill does not change any of the provisions of law that restrict funding for abortion or otherwise condition family planning assistance. While I continue to be personally committed to the permanent repeal of the global gag rule, I have maintained current law at the request of our ranking member and out of consideration for a bipartisan bill.

Ranking Member Granger:  “I have expressed concerns about a few other items in this bill that I just want to briefly mention. One item I’ve raised with the Chair is that the Subcommittee mark funds voluntary family planning programs at a significantly higher level than last year.  There are legitimate concerns about family planning funds that are spent abroad, and Mrs. Lowey again deserves credit for not altering longstanding provisions in this bill that address some of these concerns.”

The subcommittee’s Senate counterparts are not expected to consider their version of the bill until the latter part of July.  Advocates will be looking to the Senate to support similarly robust funding levels for FP/RH programs and for including a permanent Global Gag Rule repeal in their bill, as the Senate did last year.

Please stay tuned for further details as they become available.

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