By allowing women to plan the size of their families, voluntary family planning programs also help to conserve natural resources in areas where expanding human numbers threaten biodiversity and endangered species. Since the mid-1990s, family planning opponents have cut U.S. funding for these programs by arguing, in part, that the money funds abortion.
In fact, the use of U.S. foreign assistance to fund abortion has been prohibited since 1973. On his second day in office, President Bush reinstated restrictions in effect during the mid-1980s and early 1990s that prohibit U.S. assistance for foreign nongovernmental organizations that use funding from any other source to: 1) perform abortion in cases other than a threat to the life of the woman, rape, or incest; 2) provide counseling and referral for abortion; or 3) lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their own country.
The Bush Administration’s gag rule has already forced clinics in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, and Romania to close down. The rule has also cut off many family planning organizations from contraceptive supplies and impeded international HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.
During consideration of S. 600, the State Department authorization bill, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced Senate Amendment 278 to overturn the Bush restrictions on family planning assistance. On April 5, 2005, the Senate adopted the Boxer amendment by a 52-46 vote (Senate roll call vote 83). YES is the pro-environment vote. The House version of the bill, approved on July 20, did not include any language on the Bush family planning restrictions, and at press time, the Senate had yet to complete action on the authorization bill.