by Steven Ertelt
February 27, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A Congressional panel has worked with White House officials to revise a bill providing for funding international programs to prevent HIV/AIDS that overcomes objections from pro-life groups. The original bill would have opened the door to funding pro-abortion groups and eliminated abstinence education funding.
According to pro-life contacts who spoke with LifeNews.com, those concerns have been addressed in the reworked bill the committee approved Wednesday.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, said the bill the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for fixed the errors of previous drafts.
"This bill is a marked improvement and is aimed at protecting life, not destroying it," he said. "While not perfect, this bill continues the principles of the bipartisan PEPFAR program passed five years ago."
"PEPFAR does not create new family planning programs to fund international abortion groups," he added.
Perkins applauded pro-life Rep. Chris Smith, the leader of the pro-life caucus in the House, who worked overtime to mitigate the concerns.
The new bill prohibits groups that receives funds under it from spending the taxpayer dollars on "reproductive health" — a code word for abortions.
In his statement to the committee, Congressman Smith highlighted those prior concerns.
"First, and lets be totally candid about this: prior drafts of the legislation would have given billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to hundreds of the most pro-abortion organizations who are today seeking to overturn the sovereign pro-life laws of numerous African countries," he explained.
"The International Planned Parenthood Federation strategic framework 2005-2015, for one example among many, makes it clear that two of its five priority areas of activism between now and 2015 is HIV/AIDS and the promotion and performance of abortion on demand and the integration of the two," he added.
"No child or mother should suffer the cruelty of abortion because U.S. legislation integrated the abortion agenda with PEPFAR," Smith concluded.
Congressman Mike Pence, another pro-life leader in the House, also said he supported the changes made to the draft of the bill.
He said House Democrats and the White House "reached a thoughtful and bipartisan agreement that will convey American resources in a manner that is consistent with American values."
"It appears to me at this point that we’ve also crafted legislation that honors Mr. Hydes deep commitment to respecting the pro-life views of millions of Americans in the administration of foreign aid," he added.
Perkins also said the White House "is also to be congratulated for involving themselves early in the process and holding the line on key provisions, such as continued funding for abstinence prevention programs."
On the abstinence front, the new bill removes a requirement in existing law for spending on abstinence education but includes some directives making sure abstinence is a component of the HIV/AIDS education.