The Song Remains the Same—Status Quo for Family Planning Funding and Policy in FY 2014 Omnibus

After a three-month delay, Congress passed and the President signed on January 17th a trillion dollar omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 3547 ) to fund the federal government during fiscal year 2014. In what passes for good news these days, funding for international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs remains stable and no new policy restrictions were imposed. The status quo remains in place—not an unexpected development, but disappointing nonetheless as pro-family planning policy advancements proposed by the Senate were jettisoned during the negotiations with the House over the final deal.

The omnibus spending package includes all 12 annual appropriations bills, including the State Department and foreign operations bill that funds international FP/RH programs. Overall funding for international affairs programs increased by 6.1 percent over FY 2013 post-sequestration levels, including a 4.7 percent boost for global health programs, according to an analysis  by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

Total bilateral and multilateral funding for international FP/RH programs in the omnibus bill equals $610 million, including a statutory earmark of “not less than” $575 million from all bilateral accounts and an additional $35 million for a U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Of the bilateral funding, the accompanying report specifies that $523.95 million is to be derived from the Global Health Programs account, with an additional, unspecified amount allocated for FP/RH activities in key strategic countries through the Economic Support Fund. The final appropriated level for bilateral and multilateral FP/RH programs is four percent less than the President’s FY 2014 budget request of $635.4 million and nearly nine percent less than the Senate level of $669.5 million, but 32 percent ($149 million) more than the draconian cuts proposed by House Republican appropriators, which included zeroing-out funding for UNFPA.

Comparisons with FY 2013 funding levels remain problematic as information on final appropriated levels for aid accounts is not yet available. Details on the effects of post-sequestration percentage cuts and other adjustments made in the FY 2013 continuing resolution to funding levels contained in the FY 2012 omnibus have not been released. However, the U.S. government’s on-line dashboard , which tracks foreign assistance spending, reports that actual base appropriations totaled $610.4 million in FY 2013, including $577.2 million from bilateral accounts and $33.2 million for UNFPA. Using the dashboard figures as a baseline, funding levels remain essentially the same.

FY 2014 Omnibus

FY 2013 actual (foreign aid dashboard)

FY 2014 budget request

Global Health Programs Account

523,950

528,000

534,000

Economic Support Fund, FP/RH activities

(51,050)

49,200

63,400

MENA Incentive Fund

1,000

Total, bilateral FP/RH

575,000

577,200

598,400

U.S. contribution to UNFPA, IO&P

35,000

33,200

37,000

TOTAL, bilateral & mulilateral FP/RH

610,000

610,400

635,400

On the policy front, House and Senate negotiators ended up dropping all new proposals for changes in FP/RH policy—whether positive or negative—in their widely divergent versions of the foreign assistance bill, as expected.

  • Global Gag Rule/Mexico City Policy: no legislative language either imposing (House) or preventing the reinstatement (Senate) of this executive branch policy;
  • UNFPA: longstanding restrictions on the U.S. contribution retained including requirements that UNFPA maintain U.S. funds in a segregated account, none of which may be used in China or for abortion, and mandates a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the amount provided to UNFPA by a sum identical to that spent by UNFPA in China; and
  • Abortion-related restrictions and informed consent and referral protections: no change to boilerplate provisions.

 

The press statement of House Republican appropriators and bill summaries by House and Senate Democratic appropriators confirm that negotiators’ intentions were to preserve the status quo on FP/RH funding and policy in the final agreement.

Unfortunately, two important policy changes proposed in the Senate committee-passed bill were dropped, sacrificed no doubt to preserve the cease-fire on international FP/RH policy. Dropped were a provision to allow funding for abortion for Peace Corps volunteers in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest in order to make coverage comparable to that available to other federal employees and another to expand the exemption from country aid prohibitions to include FP/RH programs along with all other global health sectors. Both should have been noncontroversial, technical fixes. Also, Senate report language prioritizing greater investments in research and development on contraceptives and multipurpose prevention technologies was not incorporated in the explanatory statement accompanying the omnibus.

U.S. leadership in global efforts to address the unmet need for modern contraception for 222 million women in the developing world remains as crucial as ever, both on financial assistance and technical and programmatic innovation. Preserving the status quo is not good enough in comparison to the magnitude of the need. It is imperative that President Obama requests a robust funding increase for FP/RH programs in his FY 2015 budget due March 4th and continues to pursue proactive policy changes that benefit women and their families overseas.