Bill To Allow Contraceptive Donations To International Groups Barred

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The Senate is expected to consider the House-approved fiscal year 2008 foreign aid spending bill (HR 2764) that would allow the federal government to give contraceptives but not money to international groups barred from receiving U.S. aid because of their abortion policies, CQ Today reports (Graham-Silverman, CQ Today, 9/5).

The so-called "Mexico City" policy bars U.S. funding from going to international groups that support abortion, even with their own money, through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities. The policy originally was implemented by former President Reagan at a population conference in Mexico City in 1984, removed by former President Clinton and reinstated by President Bush during the first days of his presidency. Bush in September 2003 issued an executive order that prevents the State Department from giving family planning grants to international groups that provide abortion-related counseling.

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Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, recently said the appropriations measure, which passed the House by a 241-178 vote in June, leaves the Mexico City policy intact. However, Republicans disagreed and cited a threat by Bush to veto legislation that would change current abortion-related policies and laws. Bush in May in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he will veto any legislation that would weaken federal policies or laws on abortion, including measures that would "allow taxpayer dollars to be used for the destruction of human life" (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/22).

Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.), who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, has said he might offer an amendment that would remove language to loosen Mexico City policy restrictions. Supporters of the contraception provision have said it would reduce abortion rates, adding that they are confident they have the votes to keep the provision in the bill. Opponents of the provision have said providing condoms would enable the groups to move funds to abortion services (CQ Today, 9/5).

For current women's health policy news, visit the National Partnership for Women & Families' website.

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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