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House Upholds Mexico City Policy

On May 16, the House narrowly approved, 218-210, an amendment to the State Department reauthorization bill (H.R. 1646) that removed language that would have allowed nongovernmental organizations that use their own money to perform abortions abroad or to lobby foreign governments on abortion policy to receive U.S. funds. President Bush had threatened to veto the legislation if the language was included. The House approved the bill by a vote of 352-73.

As approved by the committee, H.R. 1646 would have reversed the Mexico City policy. First implemented in 1984 by President Reagan at the United Nations Conference on Population in Mexico City, the policy remained in effect until January 1993 when President Clinton rescinded the executive order. From 1993-2000, there were numerous legislative battles over the restriction, culminating in FY2000 when a compromise version of the original policy was signed into law by President Clinton. The restriction was not renewed in FY2001; however, upon taking office, President Bush signed an executive order reinstating the restrictions on U.S. aid to international family planning programs. Since 1973, U.S. law has prohibited the use of federal funds to pay for abortions overseas.

Sponsored by Reps. Henry Hyde (R-IL), James Barcia (D-MI), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and James Oberstar (D-MN), the amendment sparked heated debate. Rep. Hyde argued that the underlying bill, as approved by the House International Relations Committee on May 2 (see The Source, 5/4/01, p. 3), would “overturn President Bush’s benign policy and sensible policy…that puts a wall of separation between U.S. family planning programs and the international abortion industry. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to export abortions.”

Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA) agreed, saying, “We must respect the views of millions of Americans who do not want their tax dollars spent overseas to promote abortion.”

Opposing the amendment, Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL) said, “Recent research shows that voluntary family planning reduces abortion. Two separate studies, one by the RAND Corporation in Bangladesh and one by Princeton demographers in Kazakhstan, show the same conclusion: Abortion rates fall when contraception is prevalent.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) added, “We will be compromising the health and the lives of millions of women and children worldwide, and especially those in developing nations, who want and need to plan their families.”

The House considered over 20 amendments prior to passing the bill. Among the amendments approved was one by Reps. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Connie Morella (R-MD) that would reauthorize certain provisions of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (P.L. 106-386). The amendment also would require that the programs established under the Act provide support for local, regional, and international nongovernmental organizations to provide services such as culturally and linguistically appropriate shelters, hotlines, education and training for trafficked women and girls, and other legal and social services. The amendment was agreed to by voice vote.

Noting that 50,000 women and girls are trafficked into the United States annually, Rep. Morella stated, “Ending the global trade in human beings will require a multi-dimensional approach that addresses the causes of trafficking, protects and supports victims, and prosecutes traffickers. Most importantly, women’s vulnerability to trafficking is rooted in poverty and their low social status in many nations. Increased education, work skills, business development, and economic opportunity for women and girls will cut trafficking off at its roots.”

Another amendment would extend to 2003 the reporting requirements of the State Department regarding compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Sponsored by Reps. Nick Lampson (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Steve Chabot (R-OH), the amendment was approved by voice vote.

Another amendment would require the U.S. Agency for International Development to evaluate contracts awarded to small businesses to determine which industries are under- represented. Sponsored by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), the amendment also was agreed to by voice vote.

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