The “Lose-Lose” Congress

NOTE: This is a guest post from Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President of the Population Institute.

With Congress having flailed helplessly on raising the debt limit, you probably don’t need another reason to believe that Congress has lost its collective mind, but here goes.

The House State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee marked-up and passed the appropriation bill for the State Department and U.S. foreign assistance programs for FY2012. Picking up where earlier efforts to defund Planned Parenthood left off, the Subcommittee voted to reinstate the global “gag rule,” which President Obama repealed by executive order in January of 2009.  The “gag rule,” originally formulated by President Reagan, bars the federal government from funding any group internationally that dares to advocate for abortion rights, a restriction that has defunded some of the leading organizations providing family planning and reproductive health services overseas.

While there are a whole catalogue of reasons why the “gag rule” makes no sense, the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Nita Lowey (D-NY), did a pretty good job of summing it up:

The global gag rule — which would be unconstitutional in the United States — inserts a controversial policy into private and deeply personal conversations between a woman and her healthcare provider. It muzzles doctors and nurses throughout the world who work for entities receiving any U.S. assistance — even in places were abortion is legal. In real world terms, that means an expectant mother who has walked six hours while bleeding to reach the only health clinic in the region may not get the life-saving care she needs — or even a referral. Or consider the village where the only health provider must close without U.S. assistance, denying a full range of care — including, for example, HIV screenings and treatment — to the entire local population.

The Subcommittee, of course, brushed those concerns aside in hopes of preventing abortions overseas. Never mind that the restriction has the practical effect of interrupting the provision of family planning services (i.e. contraceptives) to women in the developing world who want to avoid a pregnancy. And pay no attention to the fact that disrupting the supply of contraceptives will only increase the incidence of abortion. It’s obviously more important, in the eyes of the Subcommittee, to make a strong political statement.

But not content with just making a political statement, the Subcommittee took another step guaranteed to increase the rate of abortion: it reduced U.S. funding for international family planning programs by $154 million, a 25% cut, and eliminated all funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Both of these actions, in addition to increasing maternal and infant mortality in the developing world, would also increase the number of unwanted pregnancies, leading, of course, to more abortions, including illegal and unsafe abortions that kill women.

So what does the proposed 25% cut mean in practical terms for women in the developing world? According to the Guttmacher Institute a 25% cut in international family planning funding would result in:

  • 9.4 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services
  • Almost 3 million more unintended pregnancies
  • 1.3 million more abortions (mostly unsafe)
  • 1.3 million more unplanned births
  • 7,700 more maternal deaths
  • Over 35,000 more orphans

Earlier this year, advocates for family planning assistance joined together in launching a petition campaign aimed at telling Congress that every woman in the world needs access to family planning and reproduction health services, and that providing those services is a “win-win” for women, their families, their communities, and the world at large. Unfortunately, this Congress appears more interested in “lose-lose” propositions.

Population Institute seeks to promote universal access to family planning information, education, and services. Through voluntary family planning, we strive to achieve a world population in balance with a healthy global environment and resource base.


Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago

The complete chaos caused by the Tea Party's ignorance and refusal to compromise has been difficult for all of us with good sense. Your Representative's Signing Norquist's pledge to NEVER RAISE TAXES should offend EVERY VOTER since it removes YOUR opinion from play. WE need to VOTE with our BRAINS next time!

Pamela D.
Pamela D6 years ago

This is by far, the worst congress ever seated in the history of the United States. I hope the country takes note for 2012. They are an embarrassment to our great nation.

Berny P.
Berny p6 years ago


Sarah Melcher
Sarah Melcher6 years ago

Right now, the US Government scares the crap out of me, in part because I believe that I am too normal to predict their next diabolical plot to return women to their place in the dark ages, recreate the two-caste system of an ancient era, destroy the world's environment, gut all plans that don't support their own money- and-power grabbing, and rejoice in their self-righteousness, smug that they are doing great things. I mean, Hollywood hires script-writers with wild imaginations for this kind of thing, I certainly didn't elect them!!

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

@ Laurie G---I guess you don’t follow the news. The food is not getting to the Somali mothers because of congress, but because rebel groups in their own country are keeping it from them, virtually stealing it out of the mouths of their own people’s children. I am not a fan of congress but God knows they commit enough crimes that we don’t have to make any up.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago


Karen & Edward O.
Karen and Ed O6 years ago

When you very seldom venture outside your district, much less the rest of the world, you have no concept of what is going on in that world. You have no concept of what is even going on in your own country. Or what the people of that country are going through.
When you don't even listen to your constuents, much less the rest of the people of the US, Europe, or Africa, you have even less idea of what humans are about, or what are their hopes and fears.
Then you combine that with your narrow, ignorant, extremely conservative points of view, what do you get? The House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States.

Steve R.
Steven R6 years ago

Funny how Konservative Khristians conveniently ignore ideas like "I am my brothers keeper", "The meek shall inherit the earth", "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". Somewhere, a brilliant, loving man who tried to teach peace and compassion is weeping.

Steve R.
Steven R6 years ago

"I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them." -- Judge Smails (Ted Knight), Caddyshack. Our government is marching toward this type of lunacy at a frightening pace.

Robert F.
Robert F6 years ago

The Inquisition was founded on the Christian idea that it is far better to save a one's soul, even if it means destroying that person's life. God has spoken, and god is more important than people. It seems as if god is more important than god's teachings concerning compassion and helping others. But that is fundamentalist selective godliness.