Congress Approves Spending Bill With Abortion Restrictions

With the president’s signature expected any day, the US Congress approved the fiscal year 2003 $397.4 billion omnibus spending bill last week with several anti-women measures – including continued bans on federal spending for abortions. The House voted 338-83 to approve the much debated spending bill, while the Senate voted 76-20. Several Democrats complained that the 3,000-page bill was rushed through both chambers with many claiming that they did not know what they were voting on, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Although the Senate approved a version of the bill late last month that omitted the abortion bans, both chambers last week approved the version with the restrictions after the White House sent a letter to Congress that threatened a presidential veto of any bill that did not limit abortion spending.

Included in the final version of the bill is a ban on coverage of abortion procedures for the approximately 8 million women in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is in danger, according to Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Reports. In addition, the bill also bars abortions from being performed in the federal Bureau of Prisons system except in rape cases and when the life of the woman is in danger, Kaiser reports. Both measures will extend current law.

The bill includes an extra $10 billion for national security, a significant increase in funding for abstinence education and $34 million for UNFPA international family programs. Bush will likely withhold the UNFPA funds as he did last year, even after his own investigative team found that reports of UNFPA support for forced abortions in China were false. The US contribution makes up 13 percent of the total funding for UNFPA’s international family planning programs – and enables UNFPA to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death each year.

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Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Reports 2/6/03, 2/14/03; New York Times 2/14/03; LA Times 2/14/03; Associated Press 2/15/03

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