Clinton Bows to Limits on Funding of Overseas
By NRLC Federal Legislative Office
WASHINGTON (Dec. 6) For the first time in his seven years in the White House, President Clinton has been forced to accept restrictions on U.S. funding of groups that promote abortion in foreign nations.
In end-of-year budget negotiations with congressional Republican leaders, Clinton reluctantly agreed to language under which 96% of U.S. funds for population control may go only to groups that agree not to perform abortions or campaign to legalize abortion in foreign nations.
All sides agreed that the outcome was a triumph for Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who chairs the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, and co-chairs the House Pro-Life Caucus. Smith has worked tirelessly to curb the Clinton-Gore Administration's aggressive promotion of abortion through the U.S. foreign aid program.
"It's hard to spin this in any other way but that Congress-man Smith has won," Susan Cohen of the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute told USA Today (Nov. 16).
Clinton accepted the pro-life language in return for nearly $1 billion in disputed "arrearages" (back dues) for the United Nations--a top Administration foreign policy priority. The deal was part of a massive $385 billion budget bill that was negotiated between the White House and congressional leaders, which Clinton signed into law on November 29.
Congressman Smith called the outcome "a major victory for pro- life forces" that "establishes a bright line of demarcation between those groups that support genuine family planning and those that refuse to divest themselves from the grisly business of abortion."
The object of the controversy is the U.S. "population assistance" program, which provides funding to groups to run population- control programs in less-developed countries. Much of the U.S. " population assistance" money goes to private organizations that operate in nations in which the laws protect unborn children, allowing abortion in only very rare circumstances. Nearly all of Latin America and much of Africa fall into this category.
Under the so-called "Mexico City Policy" adopted by Presidents Reagan and Bush, none of these funds could go to any organization that performed abortion or promoted abortion in foreign nations. Under this policy, the London headquarters of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the overseas division of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) did not receive U.S. funding.
However, President Clinton abolished the pro-life policy on his third day in office in 1993. Since then, the Administration has given many millions of dollars to IPPF and other groups that aggressively promote legalized abortion.
Leadership Support Key Factor in Outcome
Smith received strong backing from top Republican leadership in the House and the Senate, who for more than a year refused to approve the UN assessments unless the White House agreed to pro- life restrictions on foreign aid funds.
"This is a big victory for the pro-life side--which would not have happened without the tireless efforts of Chris Smith and the strong backing of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and Senate Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles," commented NRLC President Wanda Franz, Ph.D.
Leaders of pro-abortion organizations strongly criticized the deal. They directed their harshest rhetoric at Smith and the Republican congressional leadership, but were also somewhat critical of Clinton for accepting the compromise in order to get the UN funds.
Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), said, "The blame for this must be placed on those Republicans in the House who hold hostage our reproductive rights and freedoms." But she also said that Clinton should not have accepted the deal.
Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), said, "It is ironic that the very same president who ended the oppressive executive order 'Mexico City policy. . . will be the first president to write similar restrictions into law."
Some pro-abortion leaders also criticized Vice President Al Gore for making insufficient efforts to block the deal.
Responding to press reports immediately after the deal was announced publicly, Gore said on November 15, "I do not favor bargaining away any critical policy aspect of a woman's right to choose." The New York Times (Nov. 16) quoted a "senior Gore advisor" as explaining that Gore had expressed "strong reservations" about the deal, and "opposed what the White House ended up doing."
Gore's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bill Bradley, said on CNN, "I would not support it if I was there. A woman's right to choose is absolutely essential...."
A spokeswoman for Texas Gov. George W. Bush told the Times that Bush favors restoring the full Reagan-Bush pro-life policy (the Mexico City Policy).
The new law is weaker than the Reagan-Bush policy, because it contains a clause that allows Clinton to waive the restrictions to allow up to $15 million in funding to groups that perform or lobby for abortion--but even under this waiver, 96% of the total budget for "population assistance" will be governed by pro-life restrictions.
"If the Administration abides by the law, 96% of the population- control budget will be fenced off from groups that promote legalized abortion," commented Douglas Johnson, federal legislative director for NRLC, which has strongly backed Smith's efforts to curb the Administration's pro-abortion advocacy.
Johnson noted, however, that the waiver provisions mean that some groups that work to undermine foreign pro-life laws will continue to receive U.S. tax dollars under the deal. "Only with the election of a pro-life president will the U.S. government really get out of the business of promoting the killing of the unborn children of Third World mothers," Johnson said.
Congressman Smith's staff calculates that until now, foreign groups that perform and lobby for abortion have received far more than $15 million annually under the program. The IPPF- London says that it received $9.2 million last year, according to The New York Times (Nov. 24).
A spokesman for the Agency for International Development (USAID), which administers the program, told the Washington Times (Dec. 3) that the total amount of money received by groups that "perform or lobby for abortion is not known."
Since the Republicans assumed majority control of Congress in 1995, Congressman Smith has repeatedly won House approval of amendments to restore the ban on funding of abortion-promoting groups (victories made possible by the support of dozens of pro- life House Democrats who disagreed with the Clinton-Gore policy). However, these amendments were repeatedly dropped in response to veto threats.
Beginning in 1997, the Administration began pressuring congressional Republican leaders to approve payment of so-called "United Nations arrearages"--that is, money for assessments that the UN says the U.S. has neglected to pay. Subsequently, Smith and congressional Republican leaders agreed on a "linkage" strategy--informing the White House that the UN dues would be approved only if Clinton accepted the pro-life restrictions on " population assistance" funds.
In October 1998, Congress actually sent Clinton an omnibus State Department-related bill that provided $926 million for UN back dues--coupled with Smith's "Mexico City Policy" language. Clinton immediately vetoed the entire bill, rather than accept the pro-life provision. Throughout this year, the Administration and its allies waged a major lobbying campaign to attempt to "de-link" the UN and abortion issues. The effort was led by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who warned that the U.S. soon might lose its vote in the UN General Assembly--supposedly with dire consequences to U.S. foreign policy credibility--unless the dues were paid soon.
The Administration effort received major support from an expensive campaign by the Better World Campaign, funded by media magnate Ted Turner. The group ran expensive television and newspaper ads for months on the issue, and hired former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour as a lobbyist. Many newspaper editorial pages bashed Smith and the Republican congressional leadership for linking the UN dues with the abortion policy issue.
Nevertheless, with the congressional session in its closing days, the leadership did not budge. In budget negotiations with the White House, Speaker Hastert and other Republican leaders made it clear that UN money would be provided only as part of an acceptable compromise. Hastert spoke directly with Clinton by telephone on the matter at least once, according to press reports.
Finally, with almost all other budget issues resolved, Clinton accepted compromise language that contains the following key elements:
For Fiscal Year 2000 (which ends next September 30), it is generally prohibited to give "population assistance" funds to foreign organizations that perform abortions, engage in any activities to change foreign abortion laws, or violate foreign abortion laws.
However, President Clinton has authority to "waive" (suspend) the pro-life prohibition in order to provide up to a maximum of $15 million (4% of the population assistance budget) to organizations that are engaged in the prohibited pro-abortion activities. (Clinton signed such a waiver on November 30.)
The use of the "waiver" option results in an automatic reduction of $12.5 million from the population assistance budget, with this money re-directed to child survival programs, to be spent on such things as immunizations for polio and diphtheria and oral rehydration therapy for children at risk of death from diarrhea--health problems that kill hundreds of thousands of children annually in developing countries. (Smith has been among the strongest advocates of such child survival programs during his entire congressional career.)
Other than the $15 million allowed under the waiver, the remaining 96% of the population assistance budget--$357.5 million--may be given only to groups that agree not to perform abortions, engage in efforts to change foreign abortion laws, or violate foreign abortion laws.
"The bottom line is that once the president hits the $15 million cap, he can no longer fund or support groups that will not comply with the pro-life safeguards," Smith explained. "Our goal is to limit the exportation of abortion and this legislation helps us accomplish that."
Smith noted that many on the pro-life side are concerned that the Clinton Administration may cheat and find new ways to fund abortion overseas, and he acknowledged that this is a possibility. However, the new legislation actually gives Congress greater ability to oversee and monitor the program, he said.
"I am a student of Ronald Reagan's policy of 'Trust, but verify,'" Smith said. "As chairman of the subcommittee with oversight over population assistance, I will hold hearings and inspect every document to ensure that the president and his people do not circumvent the spirit or letter of the compromise."
In formally invoking the $15 million waiver on November 30, Clinton complained about the restrictions and said he would seek to prevent them from being renewed for fiscal year 2001, which begins next October 1.
Albright said the restrictions were part of "an extremist agenda," and promised population-control groups that the Administration would request a great increase in population assistance funding, to $542 million, for the fiscal year that begins next October 1.
However, any such increase would have to be approved by Congress- -a doubtful prospect so long as some of the money is going to abortion-promoting groups under the Clinton waiver.