After yesterday’s disappointing House committee markup of the FY 2014 State Department and foreign operations bill, women’s health advocates enthusiastically applaud the actions of the Senate Appropriations Committee in approving a far superior version of the bill with proposals for dramatically higher funding and more constructive policies for international family planning and reproductive health programs.
The committee-approved Senate bill calls for total bilateral and multilateral funding of $669.5 million, including a $39.5 million for a U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The proposed Senate funding level is $209 million—or 31 percent higher—than the comparable amount in the House bill and nearly 15 percent above estimated current levels. In contrast, the House bill would prohibit any contribution from the United States to UNFPA.
During markup, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) offered the amendment to permanently repeal the infamous Global Gag Rule. The amendment was adopted on a bipartisan vote of 19 to 11, with all Democrats and three Republicans on the committee voting in favor.
Other important, positive developments were the inclusion of a technical change to expand the exceptions for abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers, making the law consistent with the coverage available to other federal employees and beneficiaries, and a call for increased investments in contraceptive research and development.