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GAO Finds USAID-Funded Organization Pushed Pro-Abortion Language in Kenya Constitution

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

An investigation into the Obama Administration's use of $18 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars to influence constitutional changes in Kenya reveals that at least one Obama grantee openly pushed to expand abortion access in Kenya despite a long-standing, annually renewed law that prohibits U.S. tax dollars from being used to lobby for or against abortion in other countries (known as the Siljander Amendment).

The investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, also reveals that a key Obama official stonewalled investigators and refused to cooperate with the GAO in its investigation of the activities initiated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department during the 2010 constitutional referendum in Kenya.

"The Obama Administration basically hired surrogates to do its dirty work of abortion promotion in Kenya," said Congressman Chris Smith, (NJ-04), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. "U.S. policy on international constitutional reform is, by law, supposed to be abortion-neutral" Smith said. "This new report shows that at a minimum the Obama Administration ignored the prohibition with the end result being a new Kenyan constitution that vastly expands access to abortion in Kenya, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer."

"That a high-ranking official in the Obama Administration, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero, chose not to cooperate with the GAO as they uncovered procedural and funding problems begs for further investigation and review," Smith said. "What else might they be hiding?"

In May 2010, Smith teamed up with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and requested the GAO investigation. The GAO report, made publically available on Monday, shows that the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) received $400,000 from USAID to provide analyses of the draft constitution to the Kenyans' Committee of Experts (COE), the body primarily responsible for drafting and finalizing the constitution. The IDLO seized the opportunity to blatantly advocate for the liberalization of Kenya's abortion laws in its communications with the Kenyans.

For example, GAO stated that in its initial analysis on the draft constitution, IDLO provided advice "on the issues of fetal rights and abortion, though the draft had not mentioned either issue at this point. Specifically, the IDLO report advised that the COE might consider adding language to make clear that the fetus lacks constitutional standing, and that the rights of women under these articles therefore take priority. IDLO also provided examples of countries whose courts have held that fetal rights to life serve as a partial barrier to the ability of national legislatures to protect… the legal right of access to abortion." In its report, GAO also quoted IDLO as advising the Kenyans that "[I]n the coming years, the Kenyan Parliament may wish to take such measures. One way to handle this would be to modify [the constitution] to make clear that a person is a human being who has been born."

"The IDLO communications to the Kenyans introduced the abortion issue into the constitutional debate, "advised' the Kenyans to include language in the constitution that clearly supported the legalization of abortion, and expressed opposition to later proposed language that would have restricted access to abortion," Smith explained. "If this isn't lobbying, what is?"

With regard to the stonewalling by the Obama Administration official, Smith said "It actually comes as little surprise that Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero, ignored repeated requests from the GAO to question her regarding her activities in Kenya." GAO informed Smith's office that Otero failed to respond to multiple requests for meetings.

Otero, whose portfolio includes population issues, traveled to Kenya from November 29 to December 2, 2010 in her official capacity, and met with Prime Minister Odinga, senior government officials and civil society representatives. She previously traveled in Kenya with Ms. Phoebe Asyio, a commissioner on the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission and chair of the Kenyan Caucus for Women's Leadership (CWL), who advocated for and later lauded the legalization of abortion in Kenya as a result of the new constitution.

"In light of the law, Otero's activities raise serious questions that she apparently did not want to answer," Smith said.

Political reform in Kenya was -- and continues to be -- an extremely important undertaking in light of the 2007 violence that claimed approximately 1,300 lives and displaced tens of thousands more in that country. "There are justifiable concerns that the deadly upheaval could be repeated with the elections in 2012 unless dramatic reforms are in place," Smith noted. "However, this needed reform should not be used by pro-abortion groups funded by the Obama Administration to rewrite the pro-life laws of Kenya."

Smith noted that even after its clear violation of the lobbying prohibition, the IDLO continues to receive U.S. funding to play a central role in the drafting of laws implementing the new constitution.

"As the GAO points out, it is likely that several other countries will be amending or creating new constitutions in the foreseeable future, and this U.S. tax-payer funded effort to change Kenya's pro-life laws raises red flags as to how U.S. monies may be used to impose legalized abortion on other countries through their constitutions," Smith added. "Congress has determined that U.S. funding should not be used to lobby for or against abortion in other countries. That prohibition can easily be adhered to by any Administration that is committed to obeying the law."

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