July 28, 2011 — The House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign operations on Wednesday approved by voice vote a measure that would cut many U.S. foreign aid programs and reinstate the “global gag rule,” which blocks federal funds to international family planning groups that use their own funds to perform abortions or offer abortion information, the Washington Post‘s “Checkpoint Washington” reports (Warrick/Sheridan, “Checkpoint Washington,” Washington Post, 7/28).
The policy — which includes exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger — has been in and out of law since it was first adopted by President Reagan in 1984. President Clinton in 1993 reversed the ban, but President George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001 as one of his first actions after taking office. President Obama overturned the restriction within his first days in office. Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee endorsed reinstating the policy as part of a separate foreign aid bill (HR 2583) (Women’s Health Policy Report, 7/22).
The bill approved by the appropriations subcommittee also slashes support for international family planning organizations. The Post reports that the bill’s prospects are “uncertain” because it not likely to be passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate and signed by President Obama. The subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), slammed the measure, pointing out that it cuts disaster relief, health programs and family planning resources.
In a letter to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned lawmakers that she would urge a veto of any legislation that seeks to impose strict new requirements on foreign assistance to critical allies and populations. The bill “would be debilitating to my efforts to carry out a considered foreign policy and diplomacy, and to use foreign assistance strategically to that end” she wrote. She also said the legislation puts “onerous restrictions” on the department’s operations and to foreign aid (“Checkpoint Washington,” Washington Post, 7/28).