Controversial abortion-State Dept. bill OK'd
WASHINGTON (BP)--The House of Representatives easily approved legislation June 10 despite warnings it would empower the State Department to promote abortion and homosexuality in other countries.
The House voted 235-187 for the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, H.R. 2410, which permits funding for the State Department and other entities for the next two years.
Prior to the vote, pro-life and pro-family organizations -- including the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, National Right to Life Committee and Family Research Council -- asked for defeat of the bill because of its establishment of an Office for Global Women's Issues, which they said appeared destined to lobby for the repeal of pro-life laws of foreign governments.
The Family Research Council (FRC) also called for representatives to vote against the bill because it said the measure would make a priority of a State Department attempt to pressure other countries to rescind laws restricting homosexual and transsexual behavior.
All three organizations supported an amendment proposed by Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., to prevent the new women's office from efforts to repeal anti-abortion laws overseas. The House Foreign Affairs Committee defeated Smith's amendment May 20, and the Rules Committee blocked his proposal from being voted on by the full House.
The House passed the measure despite Smith's "best efforts," FRC President Tony Perkins said, "effectively breaking new ground on a massive new effort to promote abortion and homosexuality abroad."
The women's office will provide the State Department with "even more resources at its disposal to export the President's radical social agenda," Perkins said in a written statement.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a June 10, pre-vote letter to 42 House members, "Respect for unborn human life is a hallmark value. Our nation has violated that value, and the result has been the deaths of more than 50 million innocent human lives and lifetimes of spiritual and emotional regret as well as physical repercussions for millions of women. Our nation should not be engaged in efforts to inflict this misery on others.
"We oppose any effort that involves the use of taxpayer funds to undermine the deeply held pro-life policies of sovereign nations," Land said. "Southern Baptists are overwhelmingly pro-life and are deeply concerned about the prospects for this development."
Seven Republicans joined 228 Democrats in voting for the bill, while 18 Democrats voted with 169 GOP members in opposition. Among Democrats opposing the measure were Southern Baptists Bobby Bright of Alabama, Travis Childers of Mississippi and Lincoln Davis of Tennessee.
A State Department effort to advance abortion rights overseas is no surprise to pro-lifers, based on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments since taking the position.
At an April 22 hearing, Clinton told Smith and other members of the Foreign Affairs Committee the Obama administration regards abortion as "reproductive health" care and hopes to extend to women throughout the world the right to the procedure.
"We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women's health and reproductive health includes access to abortion -- that I believe should be safe, legal and rare," Clinton said. "[W]e are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care."
In late March, the secretary of state assured abortion-rights advocates that "reproductive rights and the umbrella issue of women's rights and empowerment will be a key to the foreign policy of this administration." Clinton was speaking at the annual awards dinner of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which had presented her with its highest honor, the Margaret Sanger Award.
Since President Obama's inauguration in January, he has initiated the reversal of pro-life, foreign policies in effect during the Bush administration. He repealed the Mexico City Policy, which barred federal funds from organizations that promote or perform abortions overseas. Obama also restored money through the State Department to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which had its congressional funding withdrawn by the Bush administration for the previous seven years for its support of China's coercive population control program.
During a floor speech June 10 against the foreign relations bill, Smith said Obama’s nullification of the Mexico City Policy means “pro-abortion organizations are now flush with cash and will continue to get hundreds of millions of dollars annually to push abortion around the world, all of it decoupled from pro-life safeguards.”
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau chief.