In a challenge to the dramatic cuts proposed by the House of Representatives in July, the Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to provide $700 million for international family planning and reproductive health in fiscal year 2012—a $239 million increase over the amount proposed in the House version of the State Department and Foreign Operations bill. The committee also adopted an amendment introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) that would block the Global Gag Rule proposed by the House and to permanently prohibit the use of the policy under future leadership.
The Senate actions set the stage for what will be a contentious debate over reproductive health and rights in the upcoming budget process. In its version of the bill, the House cut family planning funding by 25% from current levels and barred the United States from making any contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The House also seeks to impose the Global Gag Rule (GGR), which prohibits foreign organizations from receiving U.S. aid if they provide any services related to abortion—even if they use their own non-U.S. funding and even if the activities are legal in their own countries. Also known as the Mexico City Policy, the GGR has proven in the past to needlessly hamper access to critical health services and endanger the lives of millions.
The FY2012 State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill covers U.S. programs in diplomacy, development, health, and humanitarian assistance. While the new fiscal year officially began October 1, no agreement on the spending bill has been reached between the two houses of Congress. In the meantime, the House and Senate are negotiating a continuing resolution that would temporarily fund the government until an official FY2012 appropriations bill is signed into law.