Abortion Aid Curbs Approved by House: Clinton Prevails on Family Planning

By Barber, Ben | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 14, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Abortion Aid Curbs Approved by House: Clinton Prevails on Family Planning


Barber, Ben, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The House voted 231-194 yesterday to bar funding to population planners who advocate or perform abortions, but the action came only after it voted to immediately free up $385 million for international family planning.

The later vote was seen as a way for abortion opponents to go on record as being pro-life even though they were unwilling in the first vote to put at risk funding that helps poor women around the world get family planning.

In the first vote, the House pushed aside pro-life objections, approving by a 220-209 margin President Clinton's funding request.

Forty-four Republicans, mostly centrists, joined Democrats in rejecting appeals led by Rep. Christopher Smith, New Jersey Republican, to vote against spending the money unless anti-abortion measures were tacked on.

If the Senate approves a similar resolution when it votes Feb. 25, family-planning programs in dozens of developing nations will receive funding beginning March 1, four months ahead of a schedule agreed on in last year's Congress.

The vote to bar funds to abortion supporters reflected the the so-called Mexico City rules adopted in 1984 by President Reagan and eliminated by Mr. Clinton as soon as he took office.

The second bill, which was authored by Mr. Smith, still needs to pass the Senate, which has been less inclined to adopt such restrictive measures. It also must be signed by a president who has vetoed such language in the past.

"This is a wonderful victory for women and children worldwide," Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

"Congress did the right thing. . . . Fortunately, members understood how successful these programs have been at reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions and the spread of AIDS."

"If we didn't have the last vote, we would have been in limbo," Mr. Smith told reporters. "No doubt we wanted to win on the first vote too." He credited the loss to "very heavy lobbying," saying "they succeeded in muddying the waters."

He also pledged that having won his second vote, he will make votes on abortion measures part of the upcoming debate on foreign funding bills for 1998.

Both sides in yesterday's debate said they were against abortion.

The supporters of the Clinton family-planning funding resolution, led by Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, stressed that when poor women lack contraceptives, they have unwanted pregnancies that lead them to seek abortions.

Several speakers noted that since U.S. family planning became available in Russia, abortions fell by 600,000 a year.

Prominent Republicans such as Susan Molinari and Benjamin Gilman, both of New York, backed the president. Mr. Gilman noted that without U.S. family-planning aid, which began in 1969 under President Nixon, there would be 500 million more people on the planet.

Mrs. Molinari said, "Thousands of women would be alive today if they had access to family planning."

Rep. James C. Greenwood, Pennsylvania Democrat, said that hundreds of thousands of women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth, in part because they had too many pregnancies.

Rep. John Edward Porter, Illinois Republican, rejected the idea that the family-planning funds would increase abortion.

"In audit after audit," said Mr. Porter, "there was never a dollar found spent on abortion."

****BOX

FAMILY PLANNING

The House voted 231-194 to link release of international family-planning funds to abortion restrictions.

Voting yes (Y) were 37 Democrats and 194 Republicans.

Voting no (N) were 163 Democrats, 30 Republicans and one independent.

Eight members did not vote (X), and there are two vacancies in the House.

ALABAMA

Republicans - Aderholt, Y; Bachus, Y; Callahan, Y; Everett, Y; Riley, Y.

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