House failure to consider abortion-related amendments draws protest

WASHINGTON – A Catholic congressman is protesting a decision of the House leadership to block consideration of two abortion-related amendments to the $410 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., had sought to bar the use of taxpayer money to fund organizations that promote or perform abortion in other countries or organizations that support or participate in the management of forced sterilizations and forced abortion programs.

The House Rules Committee voted Feb. 24 to restrict debate on the bill funding 12 federal agencies to one hour for and one hour against and to prohibit any amendments. The legislation passed the House Feb. 25 by a 398-24 vote.

Rep. Smith, co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, said in a statement that surveys have shown most Americans do not want their tax dollars going to promote or provide abortions overseas.

“Why not let the American people be heard on this issue?” he asked.

Rep. Smith’s first amendment would have restored the so-called Mexico City policy, first established in 1984 but rescinded by President Barack Obama during his first week in office.

“The pro-abortion organizations who will divvy up the $545 million pot of U.S. taxpayer grant money contained in today’s omnibus bill have made it abundantly clear that they will aggressively promote, lobby, litigate and perform abortion on demand in developing countries,” Smith said. “My amendment would have prevented them from pushing abortions as a method of family planning.”

His second amendment would have reinstated the Kemp/Kasten amendment, usually part of the State/Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which prohibits U.S. funding of organizations that promote coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization overseas, including the United Nations Population Fund.

“The U.N. Population Fund has actively supported, co-managed and whitewashed the most pervasive crimes against women in human history,” said Rep. Smith, former chairman of the House committee dealing with human rights.

The U.N. agency has been the “chief apologist, as well as population-control program trainer, facilitator and funder” of China’s one-family, one-child policy, which “relies on pervasive, coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, ruinous fines …, imprisonment and job loss or demotion to achieve its quotas,” Rep. Smith added. “This bill gives them $50 million and a slap on the wrist.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Smith was among more than 180 House members who signed a Feb. 25 letter to the House leadership asking that “pro-life riders be included in any legislation reported out of the Appropriations Committee.”

In addition to the Mexico City policy and the Kemp/Kasten amendment, these include the Hyde amendment banning any federal funding of abortion; the Dickey/Wicker amendment barring federal funding of research involving the creation or destruction of human embryos; and the Hyde/Weldon amendment guaranteeing the conscience rights of physicians and nurses who choose not to participate in abortions and hospitals that do not offer them.

“We believe that failure to include all of the current policies with regard to the right to life will mark a radical departure from a policy a majority of Americans support,” said the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the Rules Committee.

“If this Congress intends to rescind these riders, at a minimum the American people deserve a full debate with an up-or-down vote,” the House members added.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, also has urged Congress to retain all the pro-life riders to appropriations bills, saying in a Feb. 5 letter, “At a time when more Americans than ever may require life-affirming assistance from the government for their basic needs, efforts to force Americans to subsidize the denial and destruction of life would be especially tragic.”

Although the majority of signers of the House letter were Republicans, nearly two dozen Democrats also signed it.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.