Democrats Use Senate Bill to Attack Trump Overseas Pro-life Protections

By | September 14, 2017

WASHINGTON DC, September 15 (C-Fam) A U.S. Senate committee passed an amendment last week that would wipe out all of President Donald J. Trump’s pro-life protections in foreign aid. Abortion advocates claim it was a sharp bipartisan rebuke to the President, but its main goal appears to be red meat for the Democratic base since the measure has no chance of moving forward.

The FY’18 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) was passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee containing a hostile amendment by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that reverses the prohibition on overseas abortion funds, increases family planning funding, and restores funding to the controversial United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Shaheen’s amendment passed in a close 16-15 vote due to support from Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Pro-life Democrat Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) opposed it. The SFOPs bill funds overseas diplomacy, humanitarian and global health assistance.

In January President Trump restored the Mexico City Policy, as have Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan. Trump expanded the policy to cover all global health funding, and not just family planning, totaling more than $8 billion. The expansion was required to account for Obama-era funding extensions to foreign organizations that perform or promote abortion beyond those covered by the family planning global health account.

In April President Trump found UNFPA to be in violation of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment which prohibits U.S. funding to any agency or organization involved in coercive family planning. UNFPA thus forfeited the $33 million that Congress appropriated in FY2017. The U.S. is one of the largest contributors to UNFPA.

Shaheen opposed both actions and used last week’s proceedings to reiterate her complaints.

Shaheen said that “Over 214 million women are in dire need of family planning services,” but the figure has been shown to be misleading since it only represents women in developing countries that self-report non-use of contraception, including those who don’t want contraception. Only five percent say they cannot access it.

Shaheen’s amendment, if successful, would restore $37.5 million in funding to UNFPA and increase international family planning to $623 million, a $161 million increase over the House bill. The House SFOPs bill capped family planning at 2007 levels, $461 million, and eliminated any funding to UNFPA.

Shaheen said that increased funding “would prevent eight percent of maternal deaths from unsafe abortions.” That figure represents only those who avoid death in childbirth by not getting pregnant. Critics point out that her contraception-based approach to maternal health funnels money into international abortion clinics and away from badly-needed maternal and child health care.  Channeling it back to maternal health is a primary reason for the Mexico City Policy.

“I believe the Mexico City Policy is a good policy, I will respectfully oppose the amendment,” said Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC). “We have this same debate every year with the same outcome,” he said. As chairman of the SFOPs appropriations subcommittee Graham was tasked with drafting the bill and will be among the party leadership that works to reconcile the House and Senate bills.

Graham noted that this was the fourth year Shaheen has proposed an amendment to permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy. In previous years during the reconciliation process her own party leadership opted for more pressing funding priorities signifying that her Democrat colleagues don’t share her priority on abortion rights.

Should party leadership decide to preserve funding to UNFPA, President Trump can prevent its allocation by executive action.