U.S. House of Representatives Passes Pro-Reproductive and Sexual Health Spending Bill

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services and State and Foreign Operations spending package on a vote of 226-203. This package included language on reproductive and sexual health education and services for women, girls, and young people in the United States and around the world. Advocates for Youth applauds Members of the House who supported youth sexual health priorities, and fought to block the administration’s dangerous Title X and global gag rules and their attacks on young people’s sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice.

The spending package included robust language that if mirrored in the Senate would block the Title X gag rule from implementation. Nearly 4,000 facilities nationwide currently receive Title X funding, serving over 4 million patients across the country, ensuring that low income communities can access birth control, STI testing, cancer screenings, and other essential reproductive health care. And many of their clients are young people – a 2016 Title X Family Planning Report shows that 39.1 percent of all Title X clients were under the age of 25.

The House package included support for youth sexual health education programs, including an increase in the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), which provides school-based HIV prevention education and supports vital research for young people like the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, and an increase in the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) which would allow continued funding for the current cohort of grantees whose programs were cut short by the administration’s attacks on the program. Advocates is also pleased that the spending package included an amendment that, if mirrored by the Senate, would eliminate, once and for all, the funding of harmful and ineffective abstinence-only ‘Sexual Risk Avoidance’ programs.

The bill also would fully repeal the dangerous global gag rule and increase funding for international family planning. The Trump-expanded global gag rule has interfered with the doctor-patient relationship, limited free speech by prohibiting local citizens from participating in public policy debates, and impeded access to family planning. The permanent repeal language of the global gag rule and significant increases in both bilateral and multilateral funding for international family planning and reproductive health would be a step forward in providing access to reproductive health care for young people around the world.

While we applaud this bill’s efforts to ensure reproductive healthcare in the United States, we are equally disappointed with the inclusion of the harmful Hyde Amendment, which has interfered with young people’s bodily autonomy and reproductive decision-making of the most marginalized communities since 1977.

We urgently call on the Senate to follow the House’s leadership in providing a large bilateral funding increase, legislative repeal of the global gag rule, and UNFPA contributions. Once approved by the Senate, we call on President Trump to sign these life-saving protections because people deserve reproductive health care, no matter their age, where they live, or their socioeconomic status.