The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a controversial bill that pro-life groups say would promote abortion around the world on the taxpayer's dime.
Congressional representatives voted 235-187 to approve H.R. 2410 on Wednesday, with 11 members abstaining.
The bill, known as the "Foreign Relations Authorization Act," would create a new Office for Global Women's Issues that would "coordinate efforts of the United States Government regarding gender integration and women's empowerment in United States foreign policy."
Concerned Women for America's Legislative Action Committee called the legislation the "Ambassador for Abortion" bill because it would designate "ambassadors" to implement "women's empowerment" programs internationally.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life Action, meanwhile, said if the act becomes law, "it will be a grave injustice to women around the world."
"Our elected representatives have no business using the diplomatic strong-arm of the United States to avidly promote abortion expansion overseas and undermine pro-life laws around the world," she stated. "I call on the Senate to reject this proposal."
A tide of other pro-life groups – including National Right to Life Committee, Family Research Council and Susan B. Anthony List – have voiced opposition against the bill, saying it would work to undermine pro-life laws in other countries.
According to the groups, the Office would be an international headquarters for abortion of sorts. Pro-lifers recalled a recent testimony of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the Foreign Affairs Committee, to whom she said the administration would protect women's rights to reproductive health care, which includes access to abortion.
They also say the bill is riddled with other problem areas, such as the promotion of homosexuality abroad.
The measure would help advance a priority of the State Department to pressure other countries to overturn laws that restrict homosexual and transsexual behavior and would force the nation's Foreign Service workers to undergo "sensitivity training" on the issues of "sexual orientation and gender identity," according to FRC president Tony Perkins.
In the two days prior to the House vote, supporters of Susan B. Anthony List sent over 7,000 letters urging Representatives to oppose the measure unless it contained text to prohibit abortions.
Though there were several attempts to include language in the bill that would restrict abortions, all were defeated.
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) had offered an amendment – backed by many pro-life organizations – that would prohibit the Office of Global Women's Issues from promoting abortion aboard. The amendment was rejected by the House Foreign Affairs committee and then blocked from a full House vote by the Rules Committee.
Despite protests by the pro-life community, human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on the Senate to approve the bill, saying it would create a permanent State Department office that would focus on preventing epidemic levels of violence against women worldwide.
Humanitarian organization CARE also supported passage of the bill because it contains provisions to reduce child marriage worldwide.
The legislation is currently headed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.