July 10, 2015 — The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 17-13 to add to a $49 billion State-Foreign Operations spending bill (SB 1725) an amendment that would repeal a policy barring U.S. aid from international groups that provide abortion services, CQ News reports.
According to CQ News, the amendment was adopted with bipartisan support. The committee voted 27-3 to advance the underlying bill (Oswald, CQ News, 7/9).
'Global Gag Rule' Details
The policy, known as the "global gag rule" or the "Mexico City Policy," blocks U.S foreign aid to organizations that use their own money to offer abortion services or provide information about or referrals for abortion services.
The policy was first put in place in 1984 and has been intermittently enforced ever since then, depending on the administration. President Obama repealed the policy shortly after taking office in 2009 (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/20/14).
The amendment, proposed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), would codify the repeal of the gag rule (CQ News, 7/9). In addition, it would provide about $600 million in funding for international contraceptive services, including $35 million for the United Nations Population Fund (Ferris, The Hill, 7/9). However, the amendment would bar funding to UNFPA from going toward abortion.
The amendment also would allocate $538 million in funding for the United States Agency for International Development's family planning and reproductive health account, an increase of $80 million. In addition, it would allocate an additional $39.6 million to the State Department's Economic Support Fund for family planning.
According to Shaheen, the amendment's appropriated funding is unallocated and would not increase the underlying bill's top-line figure.
Shaheen in a statement said, "An estimated 225 million women in developing countries are unable to access family planning services." She added, "Providing greater access to family planning and reproductive health services improves the health of mothers and children, empowers women to make their own choices about how to grow their families, and is a smart investment that helps reduce poverty."
Meanwhile, House lawmakers last month advanced a foreign aid bill (HR 2772) that would renew the global gag rule and would not provide any funding for UNFPA (CQ News, 7/9).