September 04, 1997

House agrees to foreign aid abortion restrictions

By Jackie Frank

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - The House voted Thursday to bar U.S. foreign aid to family planning groups that perform abortions, even as opponents warned the restrictions could delay final approval of next year's international aid package.

The measure was approved 234-191 just prior to House passage of the $12.3 billion foreign aid bill for 1998 on a vote of 375-49. As in past years, Israel and Egypt received the bulk of the funds, $3 billion and $2.1 billion respectively, in economic and military aid.

The abortion issue looms as one of the most controversial as Congress works towards final congressional approval of foreign aid prior to the Oct. 1 start of the 1998 fiscal year.

The Senate version, a $16 billion aid package, does not include the abortion restrictions. In a separate abortion-related vote, the Senate Thursday turned back an attempt to ban use of fetal tissue in some medical research.

Lawmakers also agreed to prohibit U.S. funding of the U.N. family planning program if it resumes activities in China, a restriction they said signalled their disapproval of human rights abuses and coerced abortions in that country.

The House narrowly defeated 218-210 an alternative pressed by Democrats and moderate Republicans which would have barred abortion funds only for those groups that promote abortion as a method of family planning in their overseas operations.

As passed by the House, international family planning organizations could not receive U.S. funds if they used other, non-U.S. funds, to provide legal abortion services. Population Action International Vice President Victoria Markell said the impact will be to threaten the health of women who rely on these U.S.-sponsored programs for their contraceptives.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, told reporters they would press to defeat the family planning restrictions and pledged to fight to uphold a presidential veto of the foreign aid bill. The White House opposes the aid restrictions and U.S. law already prohibits any foreign aid for abortion services.

``We will see more unplanned pregnancies, more abortions, exploding populations and exploding poverty,'' Rep. Nita Lowey, Democrat of New York, said after the House voted.

But the chief sponsor of the abortion aid restrictions, Rep. Chris Smith, said he had the backing of the Republican leadership to the extent that they would offer President Clinton approval of U.S. arrears in dues to the United Nations if he agreed to the family planning issue.

``We are not going to give on this issue,'' said Smith, a New Jersey Republican.

The foreign aid bill allows the administration to spend up to $385 million for population program assistance, roughly the same as this year's level and Clinton's request.

The House soundly defeated 342-82 an amendment that sought to restrict development assistance to India based on its human rights record. The administration has requested $56 million.

At the same time, the House agreed 273-150 to increase funding for the African Development fund by $25 million, bringing the total to the $50 million sought by the administration.

The House also expressed its feeling that NATO members should pay their share of the planned expansion.

And, they agreed to prohibit further funding for the much criticized School of the Americas, which trains military in Latin America.

The foreign aid package includes $625 million for the former republics of the Soviet Union and $606 million for the International Development Association.

It also includes a three-month suspension of aid to the Palestinian Authority which was approved as an amendment to the bill in July. The Palestinian office in Washington lost access to U.S. funds in mid-August but has continued to operate unofficially. END QUOTE


October 07, 1997

U.S. House urges ban on abortion-linked foreign aid

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - The House Tuesday affirmed its opposition to giving any aid to international family planning groups that perform or lobby for abortions.

The vote put the House at loggerheads with the Senate on this controversial issue, and raised the odds of a White House veto of the annual foreign operations appropriations bill.

As part of the foreign operations bill, the House voted last month, 234-191, to bar aid to any family planning groups that use their own money to subsidize abortions overseas.

The Senate, however, did not include that ban and the two chambers have not yet been able to reconcile the abortion language or other provisions of their respective bills.

To underscore its position, the House Tuesday voted 233-194 to instruct the House conferees -- the lawmakers negotiating with the Senate -- not to change the abortion ban.

``The majority voted -- no U.S. tax dollars will go overseas to fund abortions,'' said Rep. Steve Largent, an Oklahoma Republican who sponsored the motion Tuesday.

``More abortions will be performed if we do not retain the House position,'' Largent added.

Opponents, led by California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, argued that cutting off funds to family planning groups was counterproductive. Women who come to a family planning center may for the first time get the care and education they need to avoid more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions, she said.

Pelosi tried and failed earlier this year to have the House accept a compromise that would have allowed groups that may perform abortions to receive funds as long as they do not ''promote abortion as a method of family planning.''