Foreign Aid Vote in House Today to Turn on Abortion: Pro-Lifers Seek to Limit Definition of `Family Planning'

Article excerpt

Abortion gets its first test in the House today when members vote on millions of dollars in federal money for international family planning.

Although it began as a foreign aid vote, the House will decide when to release the money and whether to further restrict those funds.

"This is about whether U.S. tax dollars should go to finance abortion abroad," said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, who pushed GOP leaders for a chance to consider whether organizations that lobby to overturn anti-abortion laws can receive federal funds for family planning.

Victoria Markell, vice president and director of political affairs of Population Action International, said Mr. Smith and his supporters are playing a game.

"This is a political gimmick on the part of the Christian Coalition and the National Right to Life Committee," she said. "There is a reason why women are leaving the Republican Party in droves."

The House will vote first on the Clinton resolution, which would release about $30 million per month for family planning beginning on March 1 - an additional $123 million over four months. There would be no additional restrictions on how family-planning groups spend that money.

Members will then vote on a resolution offered by Mr. Smith that would release $385 million for family planning on March 1 as long as none of the money goes to organizations that perform abortions or to groups that lobby to overturn anti-abortion laws.

The United States spends about $400 million a year - about 25 percent of the development budget - on programs for population control in foreign countries. Federal law already precludes family-planning organizations from spending U.S. money on abortion services. Family-planning groups that devote resources to education and contraception would not be affected.

The effect of the Smith resolution would be to deny federal funding to two of about 380 family-planning groups internationally - the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) of London, which works with 140 family-planning affiliates in other countries.

"The money we provide them makes them more powerful and more effective in effectuating their abortion agenda," he said. …