Washington Memo

Just before Memorial Day, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee approved diametrically opposed versions of a foreign assistance spending bill when it comes to the international family planning and reproductive health programs of the U.S. government.

The House committee-approved bill launched a new front in the global war on women.  The bill would cut funding for family planning by $149 million from the current level of $610 million, reinstate the Global Gag Rule, and prohibit a U.S. contribution to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).

In stark contrast, the Senate committee’s bill earmarks $744.5 million for bilateral and multilateral funding, including a $44.5 million contribution to UNFPA.

In addition, during full committee markup, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) successfully offered an amendment to put in place a permanent legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule.  His amendment was adopted on a vote of 18 to 12 with 15 Democrats and three Republicans voting to block a future President, hostile to contraception, from reimposing this harmful, restrictive policy unilaterally.

Reconciling the vastly different proposals for overseas family planning funding and policy will be difficult and will in all likelihood be postponed until after the November elections along with a number of high-stakes budget and spending issues.