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Friday, March 1, 2013

International Family Planning Programs: Issues for Congress

Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

Since 1965, the U.S. government has supported international family planning activities based on principles of voluntarism and informed choice that gives participants access to services and information on a broad range of family planning methods. U.S. family planning policy and abortion restrictions have generated contentious debate for over three decades, resulting in frequent clarification and modification of U.S. international family planning programs. Given the divisive nature of this debate, U.S. funding of these programs will likely remain a point of contention during the 113th Congress.

In 1984, controversy arose over U.S. family planning assistance when the Ronald Reagan Administration introduced restrictions that became known as the “Mexico City policy.” The Mexico City policy required foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to certify that they would not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning—even if the activities were undertaken with non-U.S. funds. Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush also suspended contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) due to evidence of coercive family planning practices in China, citing violations of the “Kemp-Kasten” amendment, which bans U.S. assistance to organizations that, as determined by the President, support or participate in the management of coercive family planning programs.

President Bill Clinton resumed UNFPA funding and rescinded the Mexico City policy in 1993. In 2001, however, President George W. Bush reapplied the Mexico City policy restrictions. The Bush Administration also suspended U.S. contributions to UNFPA from FY2002 to FY2008 following a State Department investigation of family planning programs in China. In January 2009, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum rescinding the Mexico City policy. The President also stated that the United States would resume U.S. contributions to UNFPA.

Recent international family planning-related appropriations and Obama Administration requests are outlined below.

  • FY2013—In February 2012, President Obama requested a total of $642.7 million in international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) funding, including $39 million for UNFPA. Under the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, FY2013 (H.J.Res. 117, P.L. 112-175), approved by Congress in September 2012, regular aid accounts—which include international family planning funding—are funded at the same level as in FY2012, plus .612%. 
  • FY2012—In December 2011, President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74), which directed that not less than $575 million should be made available for FP/RH activities. It also stated that $35 million shall be made available for UNFPA. 

For further discussion of abortion and family planning-related restrictions in U.S. legislation and policy, see

  • CRS Report R41360, Abortion and Family Planning-Related Provisions in U.S. Foreign Assistance Law and Policy, by Luisa Blanchfield, and 
  • CRS Report RL33467, Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response, by Jon O. Shimabukuro.

Date of Report: February 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: RL33250
Price: $29.95

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