GOP Escalates Global War on Women

A Republican-led subcommittee opened a new front in the global war on women by adopting a spending bill that cuts funding for contraceptive services overseas by 25 percent, legislatively codifies the harmful Global Gag Rule restrictions, and prohibits a U.S. contribution to the lead UN family planning agency, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

As Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in her opening statement: “Whether you call yourself a Republican or a Democrat, pro-choice or pro-life, it is clear these unconscionable and unnecessarily divisive policies and cuts are counterproductive to our shared goals of reducing unwanted pregnancies, maternal and infant deaths, and abortions.”

During markup of a draft FY 2012 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, the subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), approved the draft bill without change or amendment.  The bill funds foreign assistance programs, including international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) activities, and the State Department for the coming fiscal year that begins on October 1st.

The draft bill contains funding cuts and policy riders that represent further anti-family planning salvos by the House Republican leadership, including the following lowlights:

Family Planning Funding:  Statutory ceiling on funding for FP/RH programs at not more than $461 million from all accounts—a 25 percent cut from the FY 2011 enacted level of $615 million and a 40 percent cut below the President’s FY 2012 request of $769 million.

The proposed 25 percent cut from current levels is deeper and disproportionate relative to most other development and health programs. It comes on top of the 5 percent cut imposed on FP/RH programs during this fiscal year, from FY 2010′s high-water mark for funding.

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that the proposed $154 million funding cut would have the following impact if adopted:

  • 9.4 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services
  • almost 3 million more unintended pregnancies
  • 1.3 million more abortions (mostly unsafe)
  • 1.3 million more unplanned births
  • 7,700 more maternal deaths
  • more than 35,000 more orphans

Global Gag Rule:  Legislative codification of the Gag Rule by prohibiting family planning assistance to any foreign nongovernmental organization that “promotes or performs abortion,” even with their own non- U.S. funding, except in cases of life, rape, or incest.  Historically this has been an executive branch policy. The Gag Rule undermines our investments by disqualifying the most effective family planning providers, putting women’s lives at risk. When the Gag Rule was in effect previously, clinics were forced to close, outreach efforts were eliminated, and many women lost access to contraceptives.

The subcommittee’s action comes in the wake of passage of a State Department authorization bill by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that would dramatically expand application of the Gag Rule restrictions to all foreign aid programs.  This expansion is far broader than any executive branch policy that was ever implemented under Presidents Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush, all of whom limited the reach only to family planning programs.  Even President George W. Bush specifically exempted HIV/AIDS assistance from the Gag Rule restrictions. The committee’s counterpart in the Senate, the Foreign Relations Committee, has already signaled that inclusion of the gag rule in its version is a non-starter during their planned fall markup.

As a direct counter to the draft appropriations bill,  Rep. Lowey  reintroduced on Monday the Global Democracy Promotion Act (H.R. 2639), which seeks to prevent legislatively a unilateral imposition of the Global Gag Rule by a future President who is hostile to family planning. The bill has 103 House members as original cosponsors.

UNFPA:  Prohibition on providing any U.S. contribution to the UN Population Fund.  UNFPA received a $40 million U.S. contribution this year.  UNFPA provides international leadership on population, family planning, and reproductive health issues and is a key source of financial assistance for these important programs.  Maintaining U.S. funding for UNFPA programs is crucial to improving the health of women and their families, addressing demographic trends, and promoting sustainable development.

A new analysis by UNFPA’s Technical Division estimates that a $50 million contribution from the U.S. would help approximately 1 million couples obtain modern methods of family planning. This would prevent unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, which account for 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. This funding would help avert 7,000 maternal and newborn deaths, and treat 10,000 women afflicted by obstetric fistula.

The full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to markup the subcommittee bill next week on Wednesday, August 3rd.  If full committee markup occurs as planned, a committee-approved bill in all likelihood will not be considered by the full House until after the August congressional recess.

 

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