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Public Statements

Foreign Affairs Authorization Act, Fiscal Act, Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


FOREIGN AFFAIRS AUTHORIZATION ACT, FISCAL YEARS 2006 AND 2007--Continued -- (Senate - April 05, 2005)

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Mr. BROWNBACK. Thank young very much, Mr. President. I thank my colleagues for discussing this important issue and I appreciate Senator Boxer's concern. This is well-plowed ground that we have traveled over several times. We have been over this issue a number of years. The Mexico City Policy was first introduced by Ronald Reagan. It is a commonsense policy that President Reagan first put forward in 1984, based in part on his belief that U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize or support organizations that perform or promote abortions through international family planning programs, period.

President Reagan, as was typical in his way, looked at the root of the issue and said: I understand we have an enormous debate in America and around the world about the issues surrounding the questions ``when does life begin? Does it begin in the womb or not?'' There is an enormous debate about these important questions--and I am going to set that debate aside, President Reagan said, but I am going to say as well, the American public has very clearly defined itself on the issue of taxpayer funding of abortion. The people are saying: We may debate back and forth about the life issue, but we do not want taxpayer funding to provide for abortions, particularly overseas. That is just a bridge way too far for me to cross, too far from the very fundamentals of the debate, for now the country is a pro-life country and generally people are opposed to abortion taking place.

That was the 1984 decision put in place by Ronald Reagan, later overturned by President Clinton, later put back into place by President Bush. One of George W. Bush's first acts in office was to reinstate the Mexico City Policy. The Mexico City Policy simply prohibits provision of Federal taxpayer funds to organizations that ``perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.'' It is a very simple issue. It is a very direct, straightforward issue. I want to say as well, that when individuals try to frame this debate by saying this is about women's rights and issues, and a lack of our support of them on the international level, I want to step aside for just a minute and point out the record of the Bush administration on women's rights, on issues in Afghanistan where women are now voting and actively participating in politics and society, is just tremendous.

Senator Boxer and I both put forward a bill about women's rights in Afghanistan, and, in addition, the Bush administration is implementing and remedying concerns for women in Iraq who are now voting and are now proudly waving their fingers with the ink stain upon them. Brave women are demonstrating their rights and standing up to defend their rights around the world. This administration, on a very practical level, is putting forth and implementing programs in great strides to assure women's rights around the world, and they should be congratulated for that and thanked for all their efforts.

Now, you can try to tie this question of taxpayer funding for abortions oversees back into that issue, but I do not think that is a fair point of the debate. The fair point of the debate is, it is taxpayer dollars. It involves the very difficult, sensitive issue of ``when does human life begin?''--a question which we have failed to resolve in this country as of this moment.

Should American taxpayers be funding abortions in many countries all around the world? People say: Well, there is more family planning now. The dollars do not go directly for abortion. The money is fungible. It can go into an organization and be used to replace dollars that can then be used for abortion. Why should we put that sort of ideology forward on another country when we have not resolved it ourselves?

I think the Bush doctrine, formerly the Reagan doctrine, the Mexico City Policy, should stand for good reason. It stands with the American public. We should not be using Federal taxpayer dollars to fund abortions overseas. That is the view of 75 to 80 percent of Americans.

Many Americans do not like the way we handle foreign assistance now anyway. I personally think we should be generous in our foreign assistance and in some cases do substantially more to alleviate poverty. But if you frame the debate into these sorts of issues alone, you start to drive away people's support for foreign aid and for supporting the good that is taking place in other countries. That is not a good thing to do, particularly when we have been given so much as a nation. I would hope we could help more overseas, but it has to be in a sensible way that the American public agrees with.

So while I appreciate being able to work with my colleague from California on many issues, this is one where we will have to part company. I really think President Reagan got this principle right, and the continuation of the Mexico City Policy by President Bush is right as well. Respectfully, I urge my colleagues to vote against the Boxer amendment.

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Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, responding to a couple of the comments of my colleague from California, I would like to cite and include in the RECORD a Congressional Research Service report on international family planning, the Mexico City policy. This report is dated April 2, 2001. And then another one, an updated one on population assistance and family planning programs, issued for Congress, May 19, 2003.

In the 2003 report, I want to cite this briefly because we are getting involved in a discussion about what the wording of the Boxer amendment does and what it does not do. I contend that clearly what could take place with the passage of the Boxer amendment, is that money could go to a foreign organization that performs abortions. These organizations can't use the money directly for abortions, but they can move private money to do abortions while using the government money for advocacy. That is what I am saying. My colleague is giving the illustration of this tragic situation that has occurred where there has been a rape in Nepal and this is a heart-rending example of these types of cases right before us now.

Regardless of how you view life, and when human life begins, we are going to set that issue aside but I hope we get to debate that issue one of these days. In this CRS report dated 2003, USAID issued additional guidelines on the implementation of the Mexico City Policy and stated that organizations could not ``perform abortions in a foreign country except where the life of the mother would be endangered or in cases of forcible rape or incest.'' So where my colleague is talking about a case of forcible rape taking place and a choice of an organization having to choose between performing an abortion or losing their funding, the USAID policy says that performing such an abortion is a specific exemption from this Mexico City policy that is squarely on point in this CRS report.

I ask unanimous consent to print in the RECORD selections from the two CRS reports that I have mentioned.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

At Mexico City, Reagan Administration officials emphasized the need for developing countries to adopt sound economic policies that stressed open markets and an active private sector.

Again nearly a decade later, the Clinton Administration changed the U.S. position on family planning programs by lifting restrictive provisions adopted at the Mexico City Conference. At the 1994 Cairo Conference, U.S. officials emphasized support for family planning and reproductive health services, improving the status of women, and providing access to safe abortion. Eight years later, President Bush revoked the Clinton Administration position on family planning issues and abortion, reimposing in full the Mexico City restrictions in force during the 1980s and early 1990s. Throughout this debate, which at times has been the most contentious foreign aid policy issue considered by Congress, the cornerstone of U.S. policy has remained to be a commitment to international family planning programs based on principles of voluntarism and informed choice that give participants access to information on all major methods of birth control.

Nevertheless, the controversy spilled over into U.S. foreign aid policy almost immediately when Congress approved in late 1973 an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (Section 104(f)) prohibiting the use of foreign development assistance to pay for the performance of abortions or involuntary sterilizations, to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions, or to coerce or provide persons with any financial incentive to undergo sterilizations. Since 1981, Congress has enacted nearly identical restrictions in annual Foreign Operations appropriation bills.

For the past 25 years, both congressional actions and administrative directives have restricted U.S. population assistance in various ways, including those set out in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, and more recent executive regulations and appropriation riders prohibiting indirect support for coercive family planning (specifically in China) and abortion activities related to the work of international and foreign nongovernmental organizations. Two issues in particular which were initiated in 1984--the ``Mexico City'' policy involving funding for non-governmental-organizations (NGOs), and restrictions on funding for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) because of its activities in China--have remained controversial and continue as prominent features in the population assistance debate.

During the Bush Administration, efforts were made in Congress to overturn the Mexico City policy and rely on existing congressional restrictions in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 banning direct U.S. funding of abortions and coerced sterilizations. Provisions adopted by the House and/or Senate that would have reversed the policy, however, were removed from legislation under threat of a presidential veto.

Efforts to Legislate the Mexico City Policy. Beginning in 1993, abortion opponents in Congress attempted to legislate modified terms of the Mexico City policy. Under the threat of a Presidential veto and resistance from the Senate, Mexico City restrictions had not been enacted into law until passage in November 1999 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2000 (P.L. 106-113).

In USAID-issued certification forms, organizations had to state that they would not engage in three types of activities with either USAID or non-USAID funds from the date they signed an agreement to receive FY2000 USAID population funds through September 30, 2001: perform abortions in a foreign country, except where the life of the mother would be endangered, or in cases of forcible rape or incest; violate the laws of a foreign country concerning the circumstances under which abortion is permitted, regulated, or restricted; or attempt to alter the laws or governmental policies concerning circumstances under which abortion is permitted, regulated, or restricted.

If an organization declined to certify or did not return the certification form, it was ineligible to receive FY2000 USAID population funds unless it was granted a waiver under the $15 million exemption cap.

The regulations also contain exceptions: abortions may be performed if the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or abortions performed following rape or incest; health care facilities may treat injuries or illnesses caused by legal or illegal abortions (post-abortion care).

The new Administration Mexico City guidelines state that U.S. cannot furnish assistance to foreign NGOs which perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in USAID-recipient countries, or that furnish assistance to other foreign NGOs that conduct such activities.

Examples of what constitutes the promotion of abortion include: operating a family planning counseling service that includes information regarding the benefits and availability of abortion; providing advice that abortion is an available option or encouraging women to consider abortion; lobbying a foreign government to legalize or to continue the legality of abortion as a method of family planning .....

The regulations also contain exceptions to these policies:

abortions may be performed if the life to the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or abortions performed following rape or incest.

health care facilities may treat injuries or illnesses caused by legal or illegal abortions (post-abortion care).

``passive'' responses by family planning counselors to questions about abortion from pregnant women who have already decided to have a legal abortion is not considered an act of promoting abortion.

referrals for abortion as a result of rape, incest, or where the mother's life would be endangered, or for post-abortion care are permitted.

Recipients of USAID grants, however, could use their own funds to engage in abortion-related activities, but were required to maintain segregated accounts for U.S. money in order to show evidence they were in compliance with the abortion restrictions.

Mr. BROWNBACK. Furthermore, I want to back up to an earlier point that I engaged on with my colleague. We live in a wonderful nation. This is a beautiful land. I have traveled to many of the developing countries around the world. They look up to America. They seek help and support from America. They seek our ideals. When we go there and we push issues such as abortion or are associated with groups that push issues such as abortion, we are reduced as a nation. Actions like this says to developing countries: We have issues such as malaria, we have issues such as HIV/AIDS, feeding our poor people, and you are out here pushing this ideology. Why are you doing that?

I go home to my constituents in Kansas. They think the foreign aid budget is about 25 percent of the budget, which it is not. It is about 1 percent. But then if a case such as this comes up, tax payer funding of abortions in developing countries--and they don't say it as much now--they say: We are funding abortions overseas, and we don't like it. I remember in 1994 hearing many people saying things such as that.

If we pursue this sort of policy, it diminishes our possibility to go to the public and say: We want to do whatever we possibly can to end poverty, hunger, and alleviate suffering in the world. We can do more and we want to do more. We are out there pushing to do more. If we force policies such as this, it cuts the knees out from underneath all our other efforts because then a number of people say: How are you doing alleviating poverty by funding a group that funds and works for abortion? How is this work alleviating suffering and poverty? It seems as though you are going against the very message you ought to be driving and pushing forward.

My colleague and I have come together to discuss and work on many important issues, but we disagree sometimes. We have different views on the point of life. But, from my work, I know that there are great groups of people in this country and a pretty strong majority that says we need to help more overseas. But it has to be sensible help. There have to be ways we can feed more people and ways we can take care of sickness, where we can end the fighting in places such as Darfur, where we can move forward in economic development, in ways such as the Millennium Challenge Account Program is structured to do.

Amendments such as this have a harmful overall impact on the body politic of this country, disrupting a chance to do something that is very noble and good. I understand my colleague is putting it forward as a noble cause. I don't think it is being received or can be viewed in that way.

With all due respect to my colleague and her heart for her goodness to do the right thing, this amendment is not helpful on many levels. I urge my colleagues to vote against it.

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Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I will address directly one point, if the Senator does not object. I read from the CRS document May 19, 2003, on this topic:

In USAID-issued certification forms, organizations had to state that they would not engage in three types of activities with either USAID or non-USAID funds from the date they signed an agreement to receive FY2000 USAID population funds ..... :

Perform abortions in a foreign country, except where the life of the mother would be endangered, or in cases of forcible rape or incest;

Violate the laws of a foreign country concerning the circumstances under which abortion is permitted, regulated, or restricted; or

Attempt to alter laws or governmental policies concerning circumstances under which abortion is permitted, regulated, or restricted.

As I understand it, USAID is required by the Mexico City language, that in horrific difficulties and circumstances, such as the case the Senator discussed, individuals may work with organizations who provide abortions. But it is on a narrow set of circumstances because the American public does not agree with taxpayer funding of abortions overseas.

I submit the report for the RECORD, and I yield the floor. If my colleague is prepared to yield back time, I am prepared to yield back time, too.

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Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, in an effort not to belabor this too much, there is a set of semantics being argued back and forth. I invite my colleague to submit suggestions on regulatory changes to the USAID to try to address this narrow point, if that is, indeed, the case. I hope we do not, in focusing on a particular very narrow tragic issue and circumstance--and nobody is celebrating that tragedy--I hope we do not lose focus of the broader issue of taxpayer funding of abortions overseas.

We can focus in on this very narrow point of view--and it is a tragic circumstance, I will concede that to my colleague. Maybe we can negotiate a regulatory change to address these important concerns if these words do not do it. I think we are arguing semantics here. Let's not lose sight of the fact, which is that this amendment would send taxpayer dollars to fund abortions overseas.

I urge my colleagues to vote against the Boxer amendment.

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