Measure Would Lift Restrictions On Family Planning Aid For International Groups

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Family Planning Aid

The Senate on Thursday voted to "lift restrictions on familyplanning aid to overseas health organization that perform abortion orpromote the procedure as a method of family planning," the Los Angeles Times reports (Simon, Los Angeles Times,9/6). The so-called "Mexico City" policy bars U.S. funding from goingto international groups that support abortion, even with their ownmoney, through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities. Thepolicy originally was implemented by former President Reagan at apopulation conference in Mexico City in 1984, removed by formerPresident Clinton and reinstated by President Bush during the firstdays of his presidency. Bush in September 2003 issued an executiveorder that prevents the State Department from giving family planning grants to international groups that provide abortion-related counseling (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report,9/6). The changes to the Mexico City policy are included in the Senateversions of the fiscal year 2008 foreign aid spending bill (HR 2764), which the Senate on Thursday voted 81-12 to approve, the AP/Google.com reports (Taylor, AP/Google.com, 9/6).

The Senate voted 53-41 to overturn the funding restriction policy, the Times reports. Seven Republicans joined 44 Democrats and two independents in support of reversing the ban, according to the Times.One Democrat joined 40 Republicans in voting against reversing the ban.The Senate bill must be reconciled with the House-approve measure,which does not include a provision to overturn the policy, the Timesreports. The House bill, which has prompted a veto threat from Bush,includes another provision that would permit family planning groups todistribute U.S.-provided contraceptives (Los Angeles Times, 9/7).

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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 a241-178 vote in June, leaves the Mexico City policy intact. However,Republicans disagreed and cited a threat by Bush to veto legislationthat would change current abortion-related policies and laws. Bush inMay in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and SenateMajority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he will veto any legislationthat would weaken federal policies or laws on abortion, includingmeasures that would "allow taxpayer dollars to be used for thedestruction of human life" (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 9/6).

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"The administration strongly opposes this legislation because itincludes provisions that are inconsistent with the administration'sinternational family planning policy," the Office of Management and Budgetsaid in a statement, adding, "If the President were presented a billsuch as HR 2764 that weakens current federal policies and laws onabortion, he would veto the bill" (Pulizzi, Dow Jones/Nasdaq, 9/6).

Sen.Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that overseas family planning groups arerestricted from counseling women about abortion or from participatingin policy debates concerning abortion in their countries if they wantto retain U.S. aid. She added, "The policy literally gags foreignorganizations that receive (U.S.) family planning funds."

Sen. Sam Brownback(Kan.), who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, inresponse said that U.S. taxpayers should not have to subsidize groupsinvolved in abortions. "It's a gut-check issue about where you stand onlife ... where you stand on whether o[r] not we should be usingtaxpayer funds for abortion" (AP/Google.com, 9/6). Brownback recentlysaid he might offer an amendment that would remove language aimed atloosening Mexico City policy restrictions (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 9/6).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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