House Gouges Reproductive Health Services for World’s Poorest Women

In the continuing assault on women’s health and rights, today the House of Representatives included significant cuts to reproductive health services, including family planning, for those in greatest need in developing countries for these essential services.  The action came during subcommittee consideration of the bill to fund international assistance and diplomatic efforts around the world for Fiscal Year 2012, dealing with 1.25% of the overall federal budget.

The subcommittee – headed by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) – took three main anti-women actions:

  • After cutting $10 million (from $50 million) to UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, this year, the House moved to completely eliminate funding for next year.  If enacted, these cuts would leave  about 1 million couples without modern contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortion, lead to 7,000 maternal and newborn deaths, and about 10,000 women afflicted by a fistula would not be able to have the surgery needed to repair it and lead a decent life.  These cuts are direct to the world’s poorest citizens.
  • A 25% cut in bilateral funding – directly to specific countries – for reproductive health and family planning programs.  According to calculations made by the Guttmacher Institute, these cuts would lead to 9.4 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services; almost 3 million more unintended pregnancies; 1.3 million more abortions (mostly unsafe); 1.3 million more unplanned births; 7,700 more maternal deaths  and more than  35,000 additional orphans.
  • An effort to codify – or put into law – the Global Gag Rule, the ban on family planning assistance to foreign organizations that use their own money to provide or refer for abortion services, or participate in debates on the issue in their own countries.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), ranking minority member in the subcommittee, ardently argued against these cuts.  Because there are more Republicans on the committee committed to cuts that aren’t just about curbing government waste, slowing progress toward gender equality, improvements to the bill could not be made.  Rep. Lowey is a long time supporter of reproductive health services, and recently introduced the Global Democracy Promotion Act to permanently block the Global Gag Rule from being implemented.

These subcommittee decisions aren’t final – but they aren’t good.  Efforts will need to be made to mitigate the harms in this bill during the next steps of the legislative process which includes consideration by the full House, Senate debate on its version of the bill, and then a compromise between the House and Senate versions.

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