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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Congress Moves to Boost Funding for Global Health Priorities

Recent actions in Congress show growing momentum and support for maternal and child health and family planning, with historic funding increases proposed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Equally significant, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment offered by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) to legislatively eliminate the Global Gag Rule.

Both the House and Senate called for increased funding for global health in the foreign aid budget for fiscal year (FY) 2010. The House already passed a bill allocating $528 million for maternal and child programs and $648.5 million for family planning, an increase of $100 million for family planning over enacted levels in FY2009.

On the Senate side, a spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee now awaits a vote by the full Senate. It calls for $628.5 million for family planning and reproductive health programs—$83.5 million above the FY2009 level and $35 million above President Obama’s request. In addition, a total of $555 million for child survival and maternal health was allocated—$31.5 million above President Obama’s request and $60 million above the FY2009 level.

Senator Lautenberg’s amendment to the spending bill would stop the 25-year-long back-and-forth over the Global Gag Rule, with successive presidents instituting and then repealing the policy. Lautenberg proposed an amendment that would prevent a future president from reinstating the policy by executive order.

“It is time to end the dangerous and harmful Global Gag Rule permanently. Health care providers across the globe should be able to care for the health of women and families, without ideological obstacles blocking the way. This amendment will strengthen America’s position as an international leader for women’s rights,” said Lautenberg.

Both houses of Congress are on August recess, but when returning in September, the Senate will be taking up appropriations for foreign aid. Write your senators today and ask them to vote yes and show their support for these global health priorities.

Following the Senate vote, both the bills will go to conference, and the allocations will be finalized. EngenderHealth will keep you informed of new developments.

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