This vote was on an amendment by Mel Martinez, R-Fla., that would reinstate a policy barring aid to international family planning organizations that perform or promote abortion services, even if done with funds not provided by the federal government. The amendment was offered to the bill that would reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which is designed to provide health insurance to children of low-income families who aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicare.
The policy barring aid to family planning organizations, often called the “Mexico City policy," was first initiated by President Reagan in 1984. President Bill Clinton rescinded the directive; George W. Bush reinstated it as one of his first actions as president, and President Obama again removed it. Martinez’ amendment would again reinstate the policy.
Martinez said over the years, the policy has been “wrongly attacked” and “falsely characterized as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning.”
“This policy is not about reducing aid, but it is instead about ensuring that family planning funds are given to organizations dedicated to reducing abortions, instead of promoting them,” Martinez said. “Reversing this policy means there is no longer a clear line between funding organizations that aim to reduce abortions and those that promote abortions as a means of contraception. If not reversed, the funding would enable organizations to perform and promote abortions in regions such as Latin America, countries in the Middle East, and Africa, where the sanctity of life is not only respected but, in many instances, is the law of the land and, in fact, where strong religious convictions make this practice abhorrent.”
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called the policy a “gag rule” and urged that it not be reinstated.
“This Mexico City gag rule [says] to nongovernmental organizations who work overseas: You cannot get U.S. funding if you even speak about the possibility that abortion is an option; all of your funds will be cut off. So many of these groups gave up the funds so as not to be gagged,” Boxer said. “If this was done in this country, it would be unconstitutional on its face because what the gag rule says to international nongovernmental organizations is: If you do not do what the Bush administration wants, you cannot use your own money to provide health care which could include, for example, counseling when there is an unintended pregnancy.”
By a vote of 37-60, the amendment was rejected. All but four Republicans present voted for the amendment. All but one Democrat present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the bill went forward without language that would have reinstated a policy that prohibits funds from going to international family planning organizations that promote abortion, even if that funding did not directly go to abortion-related activities.