House Committee Reverses Bush's Foreign Aid Ban
WebMD News Archive
May 2, 2001 -- The House International Relations Committee
reversed President Bush's ban on sending U.S. foreign aid to groups that
discuss abortion with their clients or advocate abortion rights.
Three Republicans joined the unanimous Democrats Wednesday in
approving the new measure by a vote of 26-22. The provision will be added to
the $8.2 billion State Department authorization bill for 2002.
"This issue, in our view, is a freedom of speech issue, not
an abortion issue," Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., the committee's top
Democrat, said shortly before the vote, focusing as most Democrats did on the
free speech aspects.
Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who has opposed abortion
for decades, denounced the measure, saying, "don't exterminate unborn
"Let me clarify right off the bat," countered Rep.
Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who sponsored the measure, "that no U.S. funds go to
perform abortions abroad. This has been our nation's policy since 1973."
She was referring to Congress passing such a provision, which was sponsored by
Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., that year.
Abortion issues continue to pose games of political ping-pong
between Democratic and Republican administrations.
Just two days after taking office, President George W. Bush had
furthered his antiabortion agenda by reversing an executive order
allowing federal dollars to be spent on international organizations that either
counsel women on abortion services or offer the procedures outright.
Bush's move this past January had countermanded an order that
President Clinton made just two days after he was sworn in as president in 1993
-- where Clinton overturned bans on the foreign funding that had been ordered
by Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
With Wednesday's new reversal, both Republicans and Democrats
indicated the full House might pass the authorization bill with Lee's amendment
intact. The last vote on the issue -- a House roll call last summer on whether
to make the ban law -- won by just 11 votes. It never became law.
Hyde warned immediately before the vote: "If this amendment
prevails, the bill will be vetoed," taking down with it $582 million to pay
the second installment of back dues to the United Nations, among other
The restrictions on foreign aid are referred to as the
"Mexico City policy" because former President Reagan first announced
his plans to implement the strategy at a 1984 population conference there.
The senior President Bush continued it, but President Clinton
overturned it -- occasionally through veto threats -- except when he allowed it
to become law for a year as a compromise to gain passage of a bill that
included money for some back U.N. dues.
Hyde predicted in an interview Wednesday that the provision
overturning the Mexico City policy would lose on the House floor but then
added, "There's always a doubt" what will happen when the House