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In a major victory for women in the developing world, the Senate Appropriations Committee has rejected the cutbacks in international family planning assistance endorsed earlier this month by the House Appropriations Committee. The Senate’s version of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill would increase FY2013 funding by $134.5 million over the FY12 allocation. The Senate version of the bill also includes $44.5 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Senate Committee’s version would also permanently repeal the global gag rule, which prohibits US foreign assistance from funding family planning providers that advocate for access to safe abortions.
While the Senate bill is a victory for supporters of international family planning, Population Institute President Robert Walker warned that, “Now is not that the time to be complacent. The differences between the Senate version of the bill and the House version of the bill are large. We anticipate that there will be a tough fight over this issue when House and Senate conferees eventually meet to hammer out an agreement on 2013 funding levels.”
The House version of the appropriations measure would substantially cut U.S. support for international family planning assistance. The House Appropriations Committee approved only $461 million for international family planning, $231 million less than the Senate version, and $149 million below the current funding level. The House Committee’s bill would also eliminate funding for UNFPA and legislatively re-impose the global gag rule that President Obama struck down when he took office.
Walker emphasized that, “Now is the time for family planning and reproductive health advocates to make their voices heard. Members of Congress need to know that people care about this issue.”