When Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) went on a learning tour in Kenya and Malawi last year, she met a Kenyan woman named Estry who told her she began her family at age 22 with no knowledge of contraception. She and her husband had eight children, Wasserman-Schultz said, “more children than they could care for.” At times, Estry and her eldest daughter suffered from malnutrition because they did without, to ensure the rest of the family was fed.
Rep. Wasserman-Schultz recalled Estry when she offered an amendment during today’s House Appropriations Committee markup of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee spending bill for fiscal year 2016. Her amendment aimed to reverse the bill’s prohibition of funding for the United Nations Population Fund and included $35 million for the world’s largest multilateral family planning and reproductive health organization.
“Every woman deserves access to life saving services on family planning,” she said. Her amendment, one of several proposed by Democratic members to restore funding cuts to the UNFPA, was rejected by the Republican-controlled committee.
Family planning and reproductive health are the only global health areas that saw a decrease in funding in the bill, which caps funding for those services at $461 million — $152 million below the President’s request and $149 million below the current funding level.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), chairwoman of the Subcommittee, opposed the amendments restoring funding for the UNFPA, saying if the House increases family planning funding, they’ll have to decrease funding for child nutrition.
Rep. Barbara Lee, in turn, stressed the public health cost of cuts to family planning.
“These cuts will result in 3000 more maternal deaths and 14 million more unwanted pregnancies,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who joined Rep. Wasserman-Schultz on the Kenya and Malawi trip. “This program is key to ending child and maternal deaths and achieving an AIDS-free generation.”
Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) also offered an amendment restoring cuts to the UNFPA, as well as a provision that would permanently reject efforts to reinstate the Mexico City policy – otherwise known as the global gag rule – which prohibits U.S. assistance from going to organizations that provide abortions, abortion counseling or use their own funding to advocate for safe and legal abortions.
Her amendment, she stressed was not an expansion of abortion rights. “To be clear, the U.S. does not and cannot fund abortions,” she said.
The programs that are harmed by the policy and the family planning cut, she said, “lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and maternal and child deaths.”
While family planning funding saw a cut, global health overall saw a small increase over the President’s request, with $8.454 billion for global health programs — $273 million over the President’s request – matching current funding levels. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria saw an increase over the President’s request, with $1.35 billion included for the program, matching current funding levels for the program.
The House also increased funding for the USAID global tuberculosis program to current funding levels at $236 million — $45 million over the President’s request.
Funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief remains level with current levels, at $4.32 billion. This amount is still $300 million below FY 11 funding levels.