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Congress Approves 19 Percent Hike in International Family Planning Assistance

December 16, 2009

Congress has completed action on an omnibus appropriations bill that will boost funding for international family planning assistance in 2010 to $648.5 million, an increase of more than $103 million or 19 percent above the FY 2009 enacted level, and $55 million more than the President's budget request.  The 2010 funding level is 40 percent higher than the amount provided just two years ago in the 2008 budget.  The increase has been approved by both the House and the Senate, and the President is expected to sign the omnibus appropriations bill later this month.

Of the $648.5 million total, $593.5 million is provided to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for bilateral field and centrally-funded programs and $55 million is earmarked for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). 

The increase, however, falls significantly short of the funding level proposed by the Population Institute and other supporters of international family planning assistance.  Earlier this year, five former directors of the USAID's Office of Population and Reproductive Health proposed a $1.2 billion appropriation for 2010 and the International Family Planning Coalition asked for $1.0 billion.

Bob Walker, the Population Institute's executive vice president, "We've made a lot of progress in the past few years, but U.S. support for family planning still falls far short of what is needed by developing countries.  We will have to redouble our efforts next year."

Walker noted that, "Investments in family planning and reproductive health pays multiple dividends. Every $100 million spent in international family planning assistance prevents 2.1 million unintended pregnancies, and that translates into fewer abortions and major improvements in maternal health and infant survival rates.  Family planning also makes a major contribution to women's empowerment, gender equity, food security, economic advancement, and protection of the environment."

In passing the omnibus appropriations bill, Congress deleted an amendment passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee that would permanently repeal the global "gag rule" that has been imposed by President George W. Bush and earlier presidents. While President Obama issued an executive order that lifted the gag rule in January of 2009, opponents of the gag rule, led by Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) have been pushing for statutory language prohibiting future Presidents from re-imposing it. Congress is expected to consider the issue against next year.

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