House Passes Spending Bill that Advances Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights on a Global Scale

On July 28, 2021, the House passed the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOP) spending bill for the fiscal year 2022—a historic win for global sexual and reproductive health and rights. SFOPs Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) championed the bill, which permanently repeals the Global Gag Rule, removes the colonialist and racist Helms amendment, protects funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and radically expands investments in reproductive health care and family planning around the world. Additionally, the spending bill would remove the Hyde amendment restrictions from the health insurance of Peace Corps volunteers.

The Global Gag Rule, originally imposed by the Reagan administration and re-instated by every Republican President since, has restricted family planning assistance since 1984. Under the Trump administration the rule was vastly expanded, preventing any foreign NGO from receiving U.S. global health funding if they provided, counseled on, or referred patients for abortion services. The rule severely restricted care and outreach to already marginalized communities, including young people, LGBTQI+ people, girls and women, sex workers, and rural populations.

The appropriations bill dramatically increases funding for international family planning, providing $760 million for bilateral family planning and $70 million for the UNFPA, a combined $222.5 million increase from this year. 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.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur each year. The Helms amendment, which prohibits using any U.S. foreign assistance funding for “abortion as a method of family planning,” has undermined U.S. efforts to combat maternal mortality and unsafe abortion for almost 50 years. The repeal of the policy would recognize abortion care as a critical component of safe maternal health care, de-stigmatize the procedure, and protect the personal decisions and bodily autonomy of those accessing family planning services.

Population Institute President and CEO Kathleen Mogelgaard said of the House-passed bill: “This historic bill for the first time in decades does not include the harmful Helms amendment and would permanently repeal the devastating Global Gag rule. It also significantly increases funding for international family planning and reproductive health and fully funds UNFPA. These investments will ensure more people have access to necessary and lifesaving reproductive health care around the world. We are delighted that the House passed this spending bill and we urge the Senate to quickly pass it, as well.”