Senate Foreign Relations Committee Votes in Favor of Overturning Bush Ban on International Family Planning
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday voted 12-7 to approve the "Global Democracy Promotion Act of 2001" (S 367), a measure sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that would overturn the "Mexico City" policy, an executive order issued earlier this year by President Bush that bars federal funding from going to international groups that use their own funds to provide or promote abortion, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Coile, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/2). The bill states that "foreign nongovernmental organizations ... shall not be ineligible for such assistance solely on the basis of health or medical services including counseling and referral services, provided by such organizations with non-United States Government funds if such services do not violate the laws of the country in which they are being provided and would not violate United States Federal law if provided in the United States." In addition, such groups "shall not be subject to requirements relating to the use of non-United States Government funds for advocacy and lobbying activities other than those that apply to United States nongovernmental organizations receiving assistance" under part I of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act (S 367 text, 8/2).
"With a clear conscience, I vote to allow this money to go forward to allow women to have a choice for their family when it does not involve them in the tragedy of abortion," Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said. Boxer said that Smith's vote was evidence of the "growing opposition to this president's radical views on family planning" that "need to be highlighted" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/2). Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the Foreign Relations Committee's ranking member and an opponent of abortion rights, yesterday unsuccessfully attempted to delay the vote until the committee's next markup session (Warner, National Journal News Service, 8/1). Helms threatened to filibuster the bill when it reaches the Senate floor, calling the measure a "fruitless effort designed to curry favor with abortion rights groups," and adding that the bill was "about raising money for the pro-abortion crowd" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/2).
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Yesterday's vote followed a move last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee to add to the foreign operations spending bill (HR 2506) an amendment that would overturn the policy. In May, the House International Relations Committee also attached to the State Department Authorization bill an amendment that would overturn the policy, but that measure was defeated on the House floor (National Journal News Service, 8/1). Bush has indicated that he will veto any bill that seeks to overturn the policy (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/2).