Last Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to advance the state and foreign operations appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022. The bill outlines bold advances to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights globally, including dramatic increases to bilateral and multilateral family planning programs and the removal of restrictions that make it more difficult for people around the world to access the reproductive health care services they seek.
The House bill includes $760 million for bilateral family planning and $70 million for the United Nations Population Fund, for a total of $830 million — a $222.5 million increase above the current enacted level of $607.5 million. This increase in funding would save lives. According to Guttmacher Institute’s Just the Numbers, an additional $222.5 million would result in 9.9 million more women and couples served with contraceptive access, 4.4 million unintended pregnancies averted, 1.6 million unplanned births prevented, 1.4 million unsafe abortions averted, and 7,120 maternal deaths prevented.
Further, the bill would also permanently repeal the global gag rule, an onerous, imperialist restriction that forces foreign NGOs to choose between retaining their U.S. funding or serving their mission of providing accurate information and a full range of safe and legal reproductive health services. When in place, the global gag rule has had devastating impacts on access to reproductive health care, with the worst effects felt by those already marginalized, including young people, LBGTQI+ people, sex workers, rural populations, and girls and women. A permanent repeal will keep future presidents from imposing the rule by executive action. And critically, for the first time, the bill does not contain the Helms amendment, an outdated, racist policy that has prohibited the funding of abortion as a method of family planning in foreign assistance.
All told, these provisions offer hope for reproductive health and rights globally, and for the many ancillary benefits that stem from reproductive freedom. As stated by new Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in her opening remarks:
“The House bill… addresses outdated policy inequities that prevent women from getting the care they need. We cannot make long-term gains toward the Sustainable Development Goals or any of our other development goals while leaving out the reproductive health care needs of women.”
Speaking about the state and foreign operations bill advanced by the House Appropriations Committee, Population Institute President and CEO Kathleen Mogelgaard said: “This appropriations bill advances many of our sexual and reproductive health and rights priorities globally, ensuring more people have access to necessary and lifesaving reproductive health care. We look forward to seeing this bill pass the House and to working with the Senate to ensure their appropriations bill follows suit.”