ABORTION: Clinton Accepts Funding Restriction on UN Dues
White House negotiators late Sunday night signaled they would accept language that bans U.S. funding for international family planning organizations that lobby foreign governments for abortion rights, ending the logjam on the $1 billion in back dues owed to the United Nations. The New York Times reported Monday that under the tentative agreement, President Clinton could issue a waiver for those groups that would automatically cut the $385 million the administration spends on international family planning by "perhaps as little as $10 million a year," the New York Times reports. Administration officials, however, said the cuts "would be so small that the impact would be negligible on the services provided by these organizations to women in developing nations." As part of the deal hashed out with congressional Republicans, the White House was able to limit the restriction to this year's appropriation, marking one of the "important concessions" from the House negotiators. Republicans had sought to "make the language permanent for all future spending grants and had sought a much larger penalty for President Clinton to use the waivers" (Schmitt, 11/15).
Although it is unclear whether House Republicans will support the deal, "it would mark an important victory for Republicans" eager to avoid the "embarrassing spectacle of the government as a UN deadbeat" while nonetheless pushing an antiabortion agenda. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) said after speaking with Clinton last night, "I thought we had a tentative agreement, but the devil's in the details." Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) affirmed that a final agreement would come this week, but questioned whether a compromise would be "fully acceptable" to both sides. "I'm not even sure that would work," he said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" (Pianin/Harris, Washington Post, 11/15). He added, "That may not be satisfactory for those who feel very strongly about the need to ensure that family planning and overall leadership on the part of this country with regard to the array of responsibilities we have with other countries could be met" (CBS, "Face the Nation," 11/14). House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) said Friday that a majority of Democrats would oppose the abortion restrictions, saying, "I think a lot of our members will not want to vote for that" (Pianin/Eilperin, Washington Post, 11/13). Clinton's administration admitted to some hesitancy regarding the deal, in part due to concern "about alienating congressional Democrats and women's groups that support abortion rights" (Washington Post, 11/15). Planned Parenthood Federation of America has urged the White House to take a stand against the "global gag rule" and not "further endanger" the lives of women to pay UN arrears. Jacquelyn Lendsey, PPFA vice president of public policy, said, "Planned Parenthood has an 83-year tradition of defending the rights and health of the women, children and families who cannot speak for themselves. As the world's only superpower, the United States should as well" (PPFA release, 11/12). Susan Cohen, assistant policy director for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, said, "I'd find it disappointing in the extreme if this pro-choice president is the person who took what was only a policy during the Reagan-Bush years and wrote it into statutory law, the waiver notwithstanding." She added that once "it's written into statutory law, it would be hard to undo." The AP/Nando Times reports that the agreement could "affect Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign, and Hillary Rodham Clinton's expected candidacy for Senate from New York" (Fram, AP/Nando Times, 11/15).