This vote was on an amendment by Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, that would prevent funds in the bill from going to any organization that supports or promotes “coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization,” as defined by the president of the United States.
The amendment was offered to a bill that would fund the Department of State and foreign operations in fiscal 2008.
“All we are saying with this amendment is no U.S. funds for coercive abortion or forced, involuntary sterilization. I hope everybody in the body would be opposed to forced abortion, whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, and opposed to involuntary sterilization. These are things which have no place in U.S. policy and funding by U.S. Government agencies. If this is part of the bill, the bill will be vetoed, and it is bad policy and it is a bad idea and it is morally reprehensible,” Brownback said.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said nobody in Congress supports forced sterilization or coerced abortions, but that Brownback’s amendment is really about strengthening the White House’s hand in its effort to deny funds to the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) program in China. The UNFPA promotes maternal and child health and family planning in the context of ensuring that countries’ populations are not growing faster than what their resources can sustain.
In 2001, an anti-abortion group known as the Population Research Institute (PRI) alleged that UNFPA had colluded with Chinese officials to further the Chinese government’s “one child” policy, which requires that each couple only have one child. Human rights groups have accused the Chinese of resorting to coerced abortions and forced sterilization in order to meet these goals.
“No one, no one supports forced abortion or forced sterilization. Let’s be honest about that,” Leahy said. “But the law has been construed differently by the White House to deny funds to the UNFPA because it is a program in China. The irony is they are trying to give alternatives to abortion. They are trying to give alternatives to forced sterilization. If we agree to this amendment, then what we are saying is we will turn our backs on the most populous nation on Earth, a country that is rapidly becoming the largest contributor to global warming, and we will not support a program that will give them alternatives to abortion and forced sterilization.”
By a vote of 48-45, Brownback’s amendment was adopted. All but three Republicans present voted for the amendment (Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania). All but four Democrats present voted against the amendment (Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania). The end result was that the measure went forward with language that would prohibit U.S. funds from going to organizations that support “coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization,” as defined by the president.