Did President Obama Indirectly Push Kenya's New Abortion Amendment?

Critics Question Obama's Involvment in Drafting Kenya's Abortion Amendment

Critics are calling for the further investigation of U.S. officials for allegedly violating the Siljander Amendment while helping to draft Kenya's revised constitution.

The Siljander Amendment is one of five restrictions placed on foreign recipients of U.S. family planning aid that legally prohibits U.S. funds from being used to support abortion as a family planning method.

The amendment states that "no foreign assistance bonds may be used to lobby for or against abortion," as defined on the USAID website.

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Questions arose after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in early October outlining the U.S.’s involvement in Kenya's constitutional reform relating to abortion laws.

As the GAO report contends, the U.S. funneled $18 million to aid in creating Kenya's reformed constitution, which was ultimately approved in Aug. 2010.

According to the GAO report, several USAID grant recipients and subrecipients used the money to help draft the new constitution, offering civic education and technical assistance to the constitution’s creators.

One of these recipients, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), aided the Committee of Experts in drafting the constitution.

IDLO, which was awarded $400,000 in U.S. AID money, addressed issues relating to fetal rights and broadening abortion’s legal spectrum.

"COE has indicated that it generally considered IDLO's advice when revising the draft constitution," stated the GAO report.

Kenya's new constitution includes a health exception clause, which permits women to have an abortion if their life is in danger due to the pregnancy.

 "[…] though GAO could not determine whether the COE made these changes in direct response to IDLO's advice," the report said.

Congressman Chris Smith, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, told the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) that “[T]he IDLO communications to the Kenyans introduced the abortion issue into the constitutional debate, 'advised' the Kenyans to include language in the constitution that clearly supported the legalization of abortion, and expressed opposition to later proposed language that would have restricted access to abortion."

 "If this isn't lobbying, what is?" Smith added.

The GAO report contends that award recipients and subrecipients should be better informed regarding the guidelines of the Siljander Amendment. Although the U.S. State Department initially agreed to better inform employees of the amendment's guidelines, in late September it issued a statement to the GAO, stating that "an understanding of the specific facts of any particular case" is required to judge a law violation.

The ACLJ is now calling for an investigation to ensure the Obama administration did not aid in covering up these allocated funds for abortion advice.

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