This vote was on an amendment by Roger Wicker, R-Miss., that would prohibit the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) from using funds it received from the bill to help other organizations that provide abortion services, even if that money is not directly used for abortions. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds most domestic agencies in fiscal 2009.
Wicker said his amendment would simply restore the law that has been in practice for the last 25 years. Wicker said this law states that federal money should not go to fund coercive abortion practices or involuntary sterilization.
“It prohibits the appropriation of American dollars to organizations involved in such activities. But it has always made provision that the President of the United States has the right to investigate and certify whether these organizations have been engaged in practices involving coercive family planning activities,” Wicker said. He suggested that it is better to outlaw the practice and then simply let the president make exceptions for certain organizations.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said for all practical purposes, the bill already does what Wicker’s amendment seeks to prohibit. Using federal money for coercive abortions or involuntary sterilization is already prohibited by law. Leahy said there is only one place where Wicker’s amendment would go farther: his amendment would eliminate the six limited purposes for which funds can be made available to the U.N. Population Fund, including fighting female genital mutilation and child marriage.
“Our law already prohibits funds for abortion of any kind, whether coercive or voluntary. We already prohibit funds for involuntary sterilization. We prohibit funds for the U.N. Population Fund’s program in China. We have already done all these things. But we do provide funds to help girls who are being forced into marriages at the age of 9. We do support care for women who suffer from these debilitating conditions. We do have funds for maternal care, clean water, and voluntary family planning. But if the amendment of the junior Senator from Mississippi is agreed to, we would prohibit those funds in many parts of the world,” Leahy said.
By a vote of 39-55, the amendment was rejected. All but three Republicans present voted for the amendment. All but three Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the bill went forward without language that would prohibit the U.N. Population Fund from giving funds it received under the bill to organizations that promote abortion services, even though the money wouldn’t be used for providing abortions.