Abortion Again a Factor in Aid Committee This Week to Review House, Senate Plans on Linking Foreign Aid to Family Planning
David R. Francis, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
To United Nations officials, Congressman Christopher Smith is someone who could inadvertently prompt millions more abortions in third-world nations.
That charge is offensive to the pro-life New Jersey Republican.
Earlier this month he successfully led the fight to pass an amendment to a $12.3-billion foreign-aid bill that blocks aid to any family-planning organization that performs, supports, or promotes abortions abroad. It also cuts off $25 million for the UN's Population Fund (UNFPA) if that agency operates in China, a nation with a one-child policy reportedly involving forced abortions and sterilizations. "We should have no part of that," says Mr. Smith's spokesman, Ken Wolfe. "Not $1." Blocked by a Supreme Court decision from banning abortion at home, abortion-rights opponents have taken their battle back into the area of foreign aid. But to the UNFPA, charged with helping third-world nations make reproductive health care and information accessible, a cutoff of US funds would limit its family-planning activities. And, says UNFPA spokesman Stirling Scruggs in New York, "Family planning prevents abortions more than anything else." On July 17, the Senate passed a $13.2-billion foreign-aid bill which, though banning the direct financing of abortion, has less restrictive language than the House bill. A conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate bills is planned for later this week. The task won't be easy. "The House and Senate have fundamentally different agendas," says David Gordon, a senior fellow at the Overseas Development Council, a Washington think tank. "Their constituencies will be hard put to compromise on this." President Clinton has promised a veto if the bill includes the tough Smith language on abortion. The $25 million from the US would make it the sixth-largest donor, after Germany, Japan, and some Scandinavian nations, and cover 1/13th of UNFPA's budget. Since 1973, US law has banned the use of foreign aid to fund abortion. Between 1986 and 1992, Presidents Reagan and Bush enforced a resulting policy banning US aid to groups that, they said, were managing or comanaging organizations that pay for abortions or provide information on abortions. This cut off two major family-planning agencies, the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York. Some 400 other family-planning groups agreed to have nothing to do with abortion. The day after he took office, President Clinton reversed the Reagan-Bush decision, opening the way for the two agencies to win a portion of the $385 million a year of bilateral US aid for family planning programs in more than 60 nations. …