U.S. Senate committee endorses important FP/RH policy changes

29th June 2007

Including a link to the full committee's press release on the markup, which provides additional detail on funding levels contained in the bill
After exciting action in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, we have some good news to report from the Senate as well.  Yesterday afternoon, the full Senate Appropriations Committee adopted its $34.2 billion version of the FY 2008 State-foreign operations appropriations bill, including many of the important breakthroughs on U.S. policy governing international  family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs approved by the House.  We are optimistic that the committee-passed bill will be approved by the full Senate. President Bush has threatened to veto the entire foreign operations bill over these provisions, so our next steps are with this in mind.

Although Senate bill and report language is not publicly available yet, family planning champion and Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) included the following key FP/RH provisions in his "Chairman's mark"
approved by the committee:

  Funding -- Earmarks $461 million for FP/RH programs from all
  accounts, of which $395 million is allocated from within the key
  Child Survival and Health Programs Fund.  This funding amount
  represents a $20 million increase above the House-passed level.

  Global Gag Rule -- Incorporates the House-passed language expanding
  access to contraceptives by providing a limited exemption from the
  GGR solely for USAID-donated contraceptives for indigenous
  organizations otherwise ineligible for U.S. FP/RH assistance.

  UN Population Fund -- Modifies the Kemp-Kasten restriction that has
  been improperly used by President Bush to deny U.S. funding to the
  U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) for the past five years by requiring the
  withdrawal of U.S. funding only if an organization "directly
  supports" coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.  The
  House-passed bill does not include any modification to Kemp-Kasten.

  Abstinence Earmark -- Provides greater effectiveness and flexibility
  in the fight against HIV/AIDS by nullifying the requirement that
  mandates at least one-third of U.S. HIV/AIDS prevention funding be
  limited to "abstinence-until-marriage" programs, as does the
  House-passed bill.

Yesterday afternoon's full committee markup was largely uneventful.  No amendments were offered and there was very little discussion in general.
However, both Subcommittee Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH) and full Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) cited the contraceptives exemption from the Global Gag Rule as being problematic, "regrettable,"
and likely to trigger a presidential veto.  Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) announced that he will offer an amendment to strike the GGR exemption for contraceptives when the bill reaches the Senate floor.  There was no discussion of UNFPA or the abstinence earmark.  The committee adopted the bill on a 28 to 1 vote with Sen. Brownback casting the lone "no" to signal his opposition to the contraception exemption.

Link to the full committee's press release on the markup, which provides additional detail on funding levels contained in the bill.

Congress has now recessed for the Fourth of July holiday. The bill is not expected to be scheduled for Senate floor action until late July -- and possibly not until September -- because upon its return from recess, the Senate will take up the defense authorization bill, debate on which will be dominated by a protracted struggle over Iraq policy.

 * * *

 June 29 2007, Population Action International

Category: Advocacy and Accountability Working Group

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