Congress Rejects Major Cuts in Family Planning
December 23, 2015
The yearend Congressional budget agreement reached this week in Washington rejected the steep cuts in family planning for FY2016, which were proposed earlier this year by the House Appropriations Committee. Thanks to the hard line taken by the White House and Senate negotiators, the final budget agreement rejected any cuts in bilateral international family planning assistance. The agreement, however, reduces funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) by $2.5 million (7.5%). On the domestic side, the budget agreement froze funding for Title X, the federal program of assistance for family planning clinics, at current levels, and rejected an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
Funding for International Family Planning
The final budget agreement reduced total funding from international family planning from $610 million to $607.5 million. The House appropriations bill passed earlier this year called for a $149 million (25%) cut in funding for international family planning programs, including the elimination of all funding for UNFPA. The agreement maintains the status quo for bilateral assistance, but cuts UNFPA’s funding from $35 million to $32.5 million.
Global Gag Rule
The House measure also sought to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which would deny federal funding to international family planning providers that provide or advocate for abortion services. House-Senate negotiators rejected the effort to re-impose the “gag” rule, which President Obama lifted by executive order in January of 2009. The rule was initially imposed during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, but it was lifted by President Clinton, and re-imposed by President George W. Bush in 2001.
Funding for Planned Parenthood
The budget agreement rejected earlier efforts to cut all federal support for Planned Parenthood. In early December, Congress passed an amendment to a temporary funding measure that would have denied any funds for Planned Parenthood and repealed major portions of the Affordable Care Act. President Obama, however, vetoed that measure, forcing congressional budget negotiators to retreat.
While Congressional negotiators rejected cuts in Title X, there has been no increase in the domestic family planning program during the past six years. Title X supporters warn that the funding freeze has had a detrimental impact on family planning clinics serving low-income communities.
Population Institute’s Reaction
Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute, offered cautious praise for the final budget agreement. “It could have been much, much worse, but the agreement ignores the growing need for family planning assistance at home and abroad.” On the domestic side, Walker warned that “It’s been six years now since we have seen any increase for Title X funding. The need, however, is still growing, particularly in states that have cut their support for family planning clinics.” On the international front, Walker noted that, the “appropriated amount is still $400 million below the level proposed by the International Family Planning Coalition. With an estimated 222 million women in the developing world wanting to avoid a pregnancy, but not using a modern method of birth control, we should be doing a lot more.”