Following on the heels of terrible House action against women’s health, the Senate is proving to be a safer place for women.
Working on the funding bill for the State Department and U.S. foreign assistance programs, today the Senate Appropriations Committee repudiated the negative action recently taken in the House. The overall funding levels in the Senate bill for family planning and reproductive health programs were set at $700 million (an increase of about $125 million from last year’s levels – in an attempt to make up for disproportionate cuts in the past). And, rather than seeking to defund UNFPA, as the House bill does, the Senate committee included $44.5 million for reproductive health services in more than 140 countries.
In direct opposition to House action, the Senate Committee included a provision to prohibit a futurePresident from unilaterally imposing the Global Gag Rule. The amendment was offered by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) – a stalwart supporter of reproductive rights – and passed by a vote of 18-12. Committee Democrats (with the exception of Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), supported it and were joined by Republicans Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Kirk (by proxy, as he is absent from the Senate due to health issues). Please take a moment to call or email Senator Frank Lautenberg and thank him for his continued commitment to women and girls’ basic human right to access the information and services they need to promote their health and well-being.
Additional good news: the bill contains language to allow abortion services for Peace Corps volunteers in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment of the woman. This is progress of sorts – and if enacted would give Peace Corps volunteers the same right federal employees already have in other federal programs.
Next step is action by the full Senate – and then the House and Senate will need to work out differences between the two versions of their bills before sending to the President for signature into law.