The GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives finalized action early Saturday morning on its bill to fund government programs through the rest of the fiscal year (ending September 30, 2011) – many of the cuts will have severe and negative effects on women’s health and rights if the budget is approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President. However, we hope that as the Senate works on its version, and they all work out the differences in the two versions that the bulk of these issues will be fixed before the bill goes to the president to be signed into law. But nothing is a sure thing – and we’ll need to be strong voices for health and rights along this process.
The House-passed bill contains cuts and adverse policies that, if enacted, will have a devastating impact on people’s lives. The breadth and depth of these anti-women provisions at home and abroad are a real statement of what the House Republicans want to accomplish while in power. Lowlights of the bill (H.R. 1) and its effects on funding for international programs include:
- International Family Planning – cuts nearly $210 million (about 30%) from the previous year, a disproportionate amount from other global health programs.
- Global Gag Rule – reinstates this Reagan-Bush-Bush policy to block funding to clinics to provide family planning services if that clinic also, with its own private funds, provides or refers patients for abortion services or participates in public debate or conferences where abortion is being considered.
- UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund - eliminates all funding for UNFPA, the agency providing family planning, maternity care, and STI prevention services, as well as fighting to prevent and treat obstetric fistulas, and end harmful practices like female genital cutting and child marriage in some 150 countries.
- Global HIV/AIDS - cuts nearly $815 million from last year, including a $150 million cut to the Global Fund. Many of these services are provided to women, and these cuts will have a devastating impact on their access to information and services.
And for health services in the United States…
- Family planning and other reproductive health services across the United States – all funding for these services (called Title X), which currently serve more than 5 million low income people in need of these and other basic health services was eliminated by the House. The debate on this issue, and funding Planned Parenthood (see below) was intense and emotional, and is worth viewing for a real taste of the divides among elected officials.
- Planned Parenthood clinics – voted to block all federal funds for birth control, cancer screenings and STI and HIV testing from going to any Planned Parenthood clinics. This provision does nothing to reduce the federal budget and appears to be a vendetta by a handful of Congress people who hate that Planned Parenthood clinics often provide or refer for abortion services with non-U.S. government funding.
- Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program – all funding eliminated for local programs offering education and services.
- Maternal and Child Health Block Grants - $210 million cut from these basic health services.
- Community Health Centers - $1.3 billion cut from the far flung network of health centers in cities and rural areas that provide essential health care.
- Center for Disease Control – a cut of $755 million overall, undermining prevention education and other public health efforts, including confronting HIV/AIDS.
Several additional amendments were submitted to further block access to contraceptives, though were not acting on due to parliamentary issues with them. Lucky break for us.
The action now moves to the Senate, where our representatives can counteract this assault on women and young people.