Dems Lose Fight
on Family Planning Aid

Unable to
override a promised veto, Democrats have backed down on
their insistence that the 2008 foreign aid budget
reverse President Bush's ban of aid to family planning
groups abroad that offer abortions.

A measure to ease
restrictions on international aid was stripped this
weekend from a $500 billion–plus government-wide
spending bill, which includes some $35 billion for the
State Department and foreign aid programs.

Congress is
expected to pass the bill this week. Eliminating the
provision allows Democrats to wrap up their long-unfinished
budget work and go on vacation before Christmas.

Democrats blamed
the White House, for threatening to block the bill if it
included the measure, and Republicans who agreed to back the

''This dogmatic
adherence to an illogical position diminishes our
influence around the world and prevents us from working
effectively to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and
unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions,'' said
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House state
and foreign operations appropriations subcommittee.

Since taking
office in 2001, Bush has prohibited any assistance to
organizations overseas that perform or promote abortion. The
policy was first initiated by President Reagan in 1984
at a population conference in Mexico City.

Democrats say an
unintended consequence is an alarming shortage of
contraceptives, particularly in poor rural areas. After
taking control of Congress this year, the Democrats
pushed through legislation to ease restrictions.

In June the House
voted 223-201 to allow any overseas organization to
obtain U.S.-donated contraceptives.

The Senate
followed suit in September with a stronger measure that
would have reversed Bush's ban entirely and allowed
financial assistance be given to any group, regardless
of whether it performs abortions. That measure,
sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), was narrowly
approved, 53-41.

The provisions
were included as part of the House and Senate's foreign
aid spending bills for the 2008 budget year, despite GOP

''If we provide
either cash or in-kind contributions or anything of value
to pro-abortion organizations in other countries, we
empower, enrich, and enable them to expand abortion,''
said Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.).

Activists said
this week they applaud Democrats for trying.

''It is
unconscionable for a president to ignore the majority of the
members of Congress, the majority of Americans, and the best
interests of millions of human beings because he is
blinded by his own narrow beliefs,'' said Amy Coen,
president of Population Action International. ''Today,
the shadow of one man darkens the lives of so many.'' (AP)

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