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Senate to try and make intl. pro-choice policy permanent

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Senate committee has forwarded to the full chamber legislation that would entrench repeal of a ban on federal funds for organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas.

The Appropriations Committee approved an amendment by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D.-N.J., that would codify President Obama’s 2009 reversal of the Mexico City Policy. The July 29 vote in support of the overall State and Foreign Operations spending bill that included the amendment was 18-12.

If the amendment bill is passed and signed by President Obama, then a future pro-life president would not be able to reinstate the Mexico City Policy with an executive order. It would require congressional action — a much taller hurdle.

When it was in effect, the policy prohibited international family planning organizations from receiving federal funds unless they agree not to perform or counsel for abortion or lobby in order to liberalize the pro-life policies of foreign governments. Opponents call it the “global gag” rule.

Obama struck down the policy during his first week in the White House in 2009. A subsequent president could reinstate the policy, however. If Lautenberg’s amendment becomes law, new congressional action and a presidential signature would be required to overturn it.

The Mexico City Policy has had a see-saw history. Initiated by President Reagan and announced at a conference in Mexico City in 1984, it remained in force until 1993, when President Clinton rescinded it on his second full day in the White House. President George W. Bush reinstated it exactly eight years later.

Only two organizations — the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International — refused to abide by the Mexico City Policy during the recent years it was in effect and consequently were refused the funds, according to Democrats for Life of America. There were 650 organizations that accepted federal money under the restrictions, Democrats for Life reported.

Reaction to the committee’s action broke down as expected, with pro-life advocates opposing it and pro-choice activists favoring it. Among the organizations in support of Lautenberg’s amendment are Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-choice America, the ACLU, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), Sierra Club, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

Among the groups that back the Mexico City Policy are the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, and the Family Research Council.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the spending bill includes other concerns for pro-lifers. He pointed to its inclusion of $55 million for the United Nations Population Fund, which had its funding blocked during the final seven years of the Bush administration for its support of China’s coercive population control program. Perkins also cited a $24 million increase for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which he said has been “illegally lobbying to legalize abortion in Kenya’s new constitution.”
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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