WASHINGTON (BP)–Congress has rejected attempts to retain a pro-life policy that bars federal funding for organizations that support coercive abortion programs overseas.
The Senate defeated an amendment March 5 that would have restored the policy, known as the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, to the $410 billion omnibus spending bill under consideration. The House of Representatives also rejected an effort to amend the legislation before approving the appropriations measure. Senators passed the overall spending legislation March 10.
Senators voted 55-39 against an amendment by Sen. Roger Wicker, R.-Miss., that would have inserted Kemp-Kasten into the bill and removed $50 million designated for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Three Democrats — Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Ben Nelson of Nebraska — voted with 36 Republicans in support of the amendment.
During its last seven years, the Bush administration refused to forward congressionally approved funds to UNFPA based on the agency’s support of China’s coercive population-control policy. During that period, the administration withheld nearly $235 million from the UNFPA as a result of President Bush’s finding that the agency aided in a program of forced abortion and sterilization. The action was based on Kemp-Kasten, which was first approved in 1985.
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., attempted to amend the omnibus bill in the House, but he said the Democratic leadership prevented him from bringing his proposal to the floor.
“So, how does Congress respond to the UNFPA’s complicity in China’s crimes against women?” Smith asked in a written release. “Do we demand reform and protection of Chinese women and children?”
“Heck no,” he said. “We gut the anti-coercion law and write a $50 million check to the UNFPA.”
The vote on Wicker’s amendment came three days after 28 senators wrote Senate Appropriations Committee leaders urging traditional pro-life provisions in spending bills be retained. The pro-life “riders” primarily bar funds for abortions and destructive embryo research. That effort followed a Feb. 25 letter signed by 180 representatives that called for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to protect the “riders.”
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.