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Senate Committee Overturns the Mexico City Policy

On August 1, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered a bill (S. 367) that would allow nongovernmental organizations that use their own funds to perform abortions abroad or to lobby foreign governments on abortion policy to receive U.S. funds. Earlier this year, the President signed an executive order denying U.S. funding to these organizations. The committee voted, 12-7, to overturn the restriction.

Calling the Mexico City policy a “global gag rule,” Sen. Boxer said that the restriction “stops NGOs from using their own funds for these purposes, something we could never do in this country because it would be unconstitutional.” She added that passage of S. 367, which she has sponsored, would “send a strong message to the women of the world that they are not forgotten.”

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) opposed the bill, saying, “This is just one out of ten billion efforts to overturn the Mexico City policy,” adding: “S. 367 is about abortion and about promoting abortion around the world and using taxpayers’ money.” Referring to his efforts to delay floor consideration of the bill, Sen. Helms said, “You haven’t heard of a filibuster until you’ve seen this one.”

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) also opposed the bill, arguing that the issue was one of fungibility of funds. “The fundamental issue is whether or not we will use taxpayer dollars for abortion assistance internationally.”

However, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), who identified himself as pro-life, argued in support of the bill: “This is an issue that really tears me up.” He added, “If we want to help abortion rates go down, then we should help our sisters have the power to determine when life begins….With a conscience clear, I vote to allow this money to go forward to allow women to have the choice for their families.”

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