Senate bill would expand restrictions on foreign aid for abortions

 

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 2022. Risch is the primary sponsor of the American Values Act. / Photo by AL DRAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Washington D.C., Feb 3, 2023 / 12:15 pm (CNA).

Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would expand and make permanent current laws that are designed to prevent the federal government from funding abortions in other countries through foreign aid.

The bill, known as the American Values Act, would bolster existing prohibitions on foreign aid for abortions. It would specifically ban aid for abortion as a method of family planning and would prohibit aid money from being used to encourage or coerce abortions or for involuntary sterilization. The bill would also make permanent a ban on the use of funds for the Peace Corps to pay for abortions.

The bill would also establish a long-standing restriction on funds to lobby for or against abortion, funds for any organization that supports or participates in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization, and funds to the Peace Corps to pay for abortions.

“Tax dollars should never be used to perform or promote abortion services in the U.S. or abroad,” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the primary sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, pro-abortion groups tirelessly work to exploit loopholes and overturn long-standing pro-life provisions of law,” Risch continued. “I’m proud to reintroduce the American Values Act to prevent Idahoans’ dollars from paying for abortions across the globe. One of my top priorities as the Republican leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is protecting the rights of unborns everywhere.”

Risch originally introduced the legislation in 2021, but it failed to make it out of the Committee on Foreign Relations, which is chaired by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey. Risch, who is the ranking member of the committee, reintroduced the bill with six Republican co-sponsors.

“American taxpayers should never be exploited to fund abortions abroad,” one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement. “I’m proud to join Ranking Member Risch and my Senate colleagues in introducing this bill to clarify and prevent any further capitalization upon unintentional loopholes by pro-abortion groups.”

The current restrictions on foreign aid being used for abortions were established through a legislative amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act in 1973, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. Known as the Helms Amendment, it is named after former Sen. Jesse Helms, from North Carolina, who introduced it. The Biden administration, along with other Democrats and pro-abortion groups, have called for its repeal.

Marilyn Musgrave, the vice president of government affairs for SBA Pro-life America, told CNA that taxpayer money should never be used to fund abortion. Musgrave served in Congress from 2003 until 2009, representing Colorado’s 4th District.

“Americans should never be forced to subsidize abortion on demand until birth at home or around the world,” Musgrave said. “The majority of Americans, including those who are ‘pro-choice,’ oppose the use of tax dollars to support international abortion. We thank Sen. Risch and his colleagues for reintroducing this bill that ensures foreign assistance dollars are not being spent on abortion, and we urge members on both sides of the aisle to join in supporting this bill.”

The Committee on Foreign Relations currently has 11 Republican members and 11 Democratic members.


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