WASHINGTON (September 7, 2007)—A spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Deirdre McQuade, praised the Senate's vote last night to maintain the longstanding federal law against any involvement in coercive abortion programs overseas. She also faulted the Senate for voting to overturn the Mexico City Policy, which denies U.S. funds to organizations that perform and promote abortion as a method of family planning. Both votes occurred during debate on the State Department/Foreign Operations appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008 (H.R. 2764).
On September 6, the Senate voted 48-to-45 to approve an amendment by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) to restore the "Kemp-Kasten Amendment" deleted from the bill in committee. Since 1985, this provision has denied U.S. funds to any organization or program that, as determined by the President, "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."
"I commend the Senate for refusing to participate in such atrocities against vulnerable women and their children in the developing world," Ms. McQuade said. "At the same time, it is disconcerting to think that this was considered debatable at all – and that the vote was so close."
By a vote of 53 to 41, the Senate also passed an amendment by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to negate the Mexico City Policy. An amendment offered by Senator Brownback to reinstate the policy was defeated by the same margin.
"After witnessing their good sense on the Kemp-Kasten provision, I am extremely disheartened to see our Senators reject the Mexico City Policy," Ms. McQuade said.
In a letter sent to all Senators before the votes, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, had urged Senators to preserve both the Mexico City and Kemp-Kasten policies. Without the Mexico City policy, he said, "abortion-promoting organizations will exploit their status as the conduits for U.S. aid to promote abortion to vulnerable women in the Third World."
Before the votes, President George W. Bush also reaffirmed his pledge to veto any appropriations bill that "weakens current Federal policies and laws on abortion." Deirdre McQuade expressed her appreciation for the President's veto pledge: "We are very grateful to the President for his commitment to these basic, long-standing policies protecting both mother and child. We hope and expect that due to his pledge, and the pledge by many members of Congress to uphold such a veto, the Mexico City Policy will be preserved in law this year."
The full text of Cardinal Rigali's letter to the Senate can be found at: www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/abortion/foreignops2008.pdf