Senate can save family planning aid Upcoming conference: Senate bill eliminates crippling House language.

July 28, 1996

IN WAGING war against abortion, House Republicans have crippled foreign aid for family planning for the current budget year. Unless the Senate approach prevails in conference, they may succeed in doing the same for next year's appropriations. On Friday the Senate approved a foreign aid appropriations bill without the crippling restrictions on family planning imposed by the House.

Few things are more important to the health and longevity of childbearing women in the Third World than access to good reproductive health care and reliable contraceptives. When mothers die in childbirth, or when they suffer the long-term and debilitating effects of untreated complications, whole families suffer. That is especially true of the youngest children, whose chances of survival shrink significantly when they are orphaned.

In the real world, these are life-and-death stakes. But in the world of Washington politics, the facts don't count for much. What matters, it seems, is ideology. Never mind that Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., succeeded in 1973 -- more than two decades ago -- in requiring that no U.S. aid funds can be used to fund abortion. Or that there has never been a report of a violation of that restriction.

The House decided to strike a blow for ideology by placing restrictions on non-governmental groups that would never pass constitutional muster in this country and that cannot be placed on sovereign governments. Specifically, the House bill requires that any non-governmental recipient of U.S. population funds certify it does not perform abortions or "engage in any activity or effort to alter the laws or governmental policies of any foreign country concerning the circumstances under which abortion is permitted, regulated or prohibited."

Never mind that some countries are struggling to find ways to combat illegal, unsafe abortions. Never mind that foreign governments often regard non-governmental organizations as their countries' most efficient and effective providers of health care services.

The Senate wisely rejected these restrictions. Now, the final version of this bill should do likewise -- or President Clinton

should wield his veto.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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