WASHINGTON (June 22, 2007)— Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives defeated an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill authored by Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) to preserve the Mexico City Policy. This policy specifies that federal funds for family planning are not available to non-governmental organizations that perform and promote abortion as a method of family planning in other countries. Deirdre A. McQuade, Director of Planning and Information for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), reacted with disappointment to the 205-218 vote.
"If this bill were signed into law, the United States would undermine international – and even domestic – consensus that abortion is not family planning," Ms. McQuade said.
"Exporting abortion overseas will not lower abortion rates, is resented by developing nations, and is not supported by the American people," Ms. McQuade said, "Poor women in developing nations want food, clean water, housing, and affordable medicine for themselves and their families, not 'assistance' to abort their own children."
The House passed another amendment offered by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) that allows U.S. contraceptive programs to be operated through pro-abortion groups. "The Lowey amendment, rewards in new ways organizations who actively defy the U.N. policy against promoting abortion as family planning," Ms. McQuade said. "While some claim that this measure will reduce abortions, logic and common sense dictate that we cannot reduce abortions by supporting groups dedicated to promoting abortions. Such a policy would clearly be at war with itself," she added.
By a vote of 200-226 the House also defeated an amendment by Representative Joseph Pitts (R-PA) to maintain current U.S. policy on funding abstinence-before-marriage programs for HIV-AIDS prevention. In a letter to the House, Bishop Thomas Wenski, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Policy, and Ken Hackett, President of Catholic Relief Services, stated: "By setting aside the requirement that 33% of prevention funding focus on 'abstinence-before-marriage', Congress is summarily rejecting sound evidence and experience of what actually works in reducing HIV and AIDS."
"Pulling support for this proven approach to AIDS prevention shows disregard for human life as it will surely put lives at risk," McQuade stated.
"I am grateful to President Bush for his pledge to veto legislation that weakens standing protections for innocent human life, including the Mexico City Policy," McQuade said, referring to the President's letters to House and Senate leaders on May 3, 2007.
NOTE: Cardinal Rigali's June 18, 2007 letter urging the House to pass the Smith-Stupak amendment may be found at www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/mexicocity2007.pdf; and Bishop Wenski's letter is available at www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/pepfar.pdf.