House to Challenge Bush on Overseas Abortion

The U.S. House is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill to fund abortions overseas, directly challenging President Bush who has prohibited U.S. tax dollars from supporting organizations that fund or promote the practice overseas.

The State-Foreign Operations appropriation bill contains a section which essentially would overturn the "Mexico City" policy – an international agreement for nations to not use family planning assistance fund to support groups that perform or promote abortion as family planning.

The policy was a product of the United Nations International Conference on Population held in Mexico City in 1984. Member nations had urged governments to help women avoid abortion and to not promote the practice as a method of family planning.

Under then-President Ronald Reagan, the United States said it would no longer fund nongovernmental organizations that violated this agreement. The policy has continued as law from 1984 to the present, except for an eight-year gap during the Clinton administration; President Bush had reinstated the policy during the first days of his presidency.

Last month, Bush sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that said he will veto any legislation that would weaken federal policies or laws on abortion, including measures that would "allow taxpayer dollars to be used for the destruction of human life," according to the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report.

Bush has vowed to veto any legislation that challenges his pro-life policies.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), responded to the bill seeking to change the "Mexico City" policy by noting evidence which shows that the inclusion of abortion in a family planning program undermines the program's effectiveness.

"Those who now oppose the Mexico City policy seem to be ignoring these realities," Rigali said in a letter to the House on Monday. Moreover, "logic and common sense dictate that we cannot reduce abortions by supporting groups dedicated to promoting abortions. Such a policy is simply at war with itself," he added.

"Respect for innocent human life, a due regard for the culture and the rights of vulnerable developing nations, and even the practical concerns of those committed to effective family planning programs all argue for the same conclusion," the cardinal said.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) are trying to maintain the pro-life "Mexico City" policy with their bipartisan amendment.

Both Focus on the Family and the USCCB call on Christians and pro-life advocates to support the amendment sponsored by the congressmen.

"Once again, we are so thankful for members of Congress who are willing to defend family values," said Ashley Horne, federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, according to Citizenlink. "Constituents must stand behind Representatives Smith and Stupak as they seek to protect the family in the face of overwhelming odds by offering these pro-family amendments."