Ron Paul Classic: Dr. Paul v Nancy Pelosi on Taxpayer-Funded Abortion

Since today is the March for Life, it seems appropriate to look back on one of the highlights of Ron Paul’s efforts to end taxpayer-supported abortion -- his 1997 amendment to the foreign operations appropriations bill forbidding the use of taxpayer funds to support international organizations that perform or promote abortion.


The debate on the amendment is reproduced below. Note that one of Dr. Paul’s opponents is California Representative—and now Speaker—Nancy Pelosi.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I offer amendment.

The Clerk read as follows:

Amendment No. 32 offered by Mr. PAUL:

After the last section (preceding the short title), insert the following:


SEC. 572. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be made available for—

(1) population control or population planning programs; (2) family planning activities; or (3) abortion procedures.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, the amendment is very clear. If the amendment passes, no funds in this bill could be used for population control, family planning, or abortion procedures. That will take in about $385 million that we could save by passing this amendment.

The most important part of this amendment would be that we would absolutely assure that none of the funding would ever be used for abortion. One of the ways that the funds get to abortion, to the use of abortion, is that the funds are granted for birth control, and then the funds elsewhere can be saved, and those other funds can be used for abortion. In other words, it can be the funds are fungible.

It is claimed that people have a need for birth control, and this may be true, but we have not been well received around the world. I am not quite sure exactly when the U.S. Government and the American taxpayer got involved in the birth control business overseas, but we have been doing it now probably for several decades. But there is a lot of resentment toward America imposing our will on other people.

For instance, we have sent over the use of Norplant, a very controversial medical procedure. I am a gynecologist, and I can attest to it. It is very controversial, yet it was used on hundreds of thousands of women over- seas. When that procedure was finally brought to the United States, it was rejected by the American people.

I, as a gynecologist, spent more time taking the Norplants out than putting them in because of the severe complications with them, but nevertheless we, as taxpayers, have continuously sent more funding overseas to support these procedures.

But there is no moral justification for us in the U.S. Congress to go and tax poor people in America, to go over and impose our ideas and our beliefs on other people’s culture, and we have been doing this now for several decades, and a lot of resentment has been building up. There is no constitutional authority for programs like this. There is nowhere in the Constitution where we can find any justification for us imposing our will on other people in this manner.

But worst of all, if funds are used for birth control and other funds are saved and then they are used on abortion, it is in a way indirectly supporting abortion.

Later on we will vote on another amendment to curtail the use of funds for abortion, and I will support the amendment of the gentleman from New Jersey in this regard because we hope that that would at least help, but one way where we can assure and not worry about it would be to pass this amendment and not send any money over in the first place because it is not authorized, it is not permissible, it is not moral, and there is a lot of resentment toward us for these very, very reasons.

The issue that always comes up is that the people need help, but there are a lot of voluntary associations in this country that are willing to help. If we feel compelled to help poor nations in their birth control effort, it can be done through voluntary means, not through coercion, not taking by force money from people who have philosophic and religious and social beliefs against these programs that we are imposing on others.

So this is a program that should be just abolished. It should be stopped. We should not send any funds over there. This argument that we can control the way funds are being spent once they are overseas, we are kidding ourselves when we use that argument. We really lose control of these funds once they get into the hands of other governments or agencies that are dealing with these problems overseas.

Typically, programs that are run by governments and international governments do not work very well, and these programs have done very poorly. At the same time, there are poor countries around the world that have car loads, millions, of condoms sitting around that are not used. They cannot get surgical gloves to do surgical procedures. There are countries reported in Africa where they do not have penicillin, and yet they have all the birth control pills that they want.

So I argue that this program is unnecessary, unconstitutional, it is an abuse of the rights and beliefs of so many Americans, and it is not well received overseas. The best thing we can do is just take the money away from these programs, take the $385 million and return it to the American taxpayers. This would be a far better way to use this money other than aggravating, antagonizing people in other countries.

What would we think if some foreign government came over and decided that our inner cities were overpopulated and they wanted to impose some population controls and some birth control methods on the inner cities? I am sure there would be a strong objection to that.

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I rise in very strong opposition to the amendment, as proposed, by the gentleman from Texas . If enacted, the Paul amendment would cause death and suffering for millions of women and children whose lives and well-being depend on the availability of family planning and health service supported under USAID’s population assistance program. Over 580,000 women die annually, 1 woman every minute, of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Family planning can prevent 25 percent of all maternal and infant deaths by avoiding unintended pregnancies and spacing births.

The Paul amendment would close the most effective avenue to prevent abortions. Certainly we all consider abortion a failure, and if we want to reduce the number of abortions, we should support family planning.

The World Health Organization estimates that 40 percent of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. That is a tragedy. Family planning enables couples to prevent unintended pregnancies. Large declines in numbers of abortions have occurred due to the expansion of family planning services in many countries across the globe, including South Korea, Chile, Hungary, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Colombia, and Mexico. This amendment would end a 30-year program that is recognized as one of the most successful components of U.S. foreign assistance.

And this is not about the United States going to another country and forcing anything on anyone. This is a voluntary program that the countries asked for. And again, to reference the remarks of the gentleman from Texas , we are not later going to be voting on any amendment that will curtail funds for abortion. The discussion in this bill is about curtailing funding for family planning.

More than 50 million couples in the developing world use family planning as a direct result of this program, and the average number of children per family has declined more than one- third since the 1960’s. Three out of four Americans surveyed in 1995 wanted to increase or maintain spending on family planning for poor countries.

I urge our colleagues to reject overwhelmingly the ill-advised Paul amendment and to support inter- national family planning.

Mr. CALLAHAN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, while I have every respect for the philosophy of the gentleman from Texas, and I share his views on abortion, I do not think that is what this debate or this amendment addresses. Indeed, I feel like I have made a giant and major impact on the elimination of AID funds for abortion anywhere in the world. As a matter of fact, my bill says that none of the funds of this bill may be used for an abortion, period.

So this is not an abortion issue; this is a family planning issue, because some feel like that if they go into a country and through educational processes they will eliminate the need for abortions, and they well may be right.

So do not imply to anyone in this body or anyone in this audience watching today that the bill that I wrote permits abortion in any fashion because it absolutely restricts it. Abortions for family planning purposes cannot be performed with any of the money anywhere in this bill, period, flat no.

Now when I took this committee over as chairman several years ago, Mr. Chairman, if I had come to you and said to you and the proponents of the right to life, said, I am going to cut funding for family planning by up to half, then I would have been heralded as a hero.

Now I have done that, only to be addressed on the floor as a proponent of abortion, which I am not.

So I would submit to this Congress and to the gentleman from Texas, while I agree with his views with respect to the right to life, he is absolutely wrong in his allegation that any of this money for family planning purposes can be used for abortion. It does not, it cannot, it will not, and never will as long as I am chairman of this committee.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I would oppose the gentleman’s amendment, indicating to the Members that the restriction is already there and that we have cut family planning significantly over the period of time that I have used. If you use 1995 figures, we have cut $518 million from family planning activities.

So I think we have done an outstanding job, and I would urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CALLAHAN. I yield to the gentleman from Texas.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I do not want to imply that the gentleman has permitted or endorsed or encouraged or the bill says directly there are funds here for abortion. I will concede that.

Mr. CALLAHAN. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, if the gentleman would answer my question, is there anything in this bill that leads the gentleman to believe that any of this money can be used for abortion anywhere in the world?

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I am addressing the fungibility argument.

Mr. CALLAHAN. The fungibility and the tangibility of what is in this bill, you cannot use any of this money for abortions anywhere in the world. If the gentleman would concede to that point, I would be happy to yield.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, that is true directly, but indirectly the fungibility argument is very important. If you use funds for other things, you say the governments and agencies can use them for abortion. So you do it indirectly.

Yes, it might be a little harder to comprehend the fungibility argument, but it is there. If we support a country or a government or an agency that does permit and endorse abortion and they can use these funds for birth control pills, they can use their other funds to do the abortion.

So, yes, the gentleman is correct that directly there are no funds in this bill that will provide for abortion.

But indirectly it opens up some funds and makes them available for abortion.

Mr. CALLAHAN. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, will the gentleman admit that we have done a very favorable job in moving in the same direction the gentleman would like us to move? Would the gentleman not admit that since when I took over this committee we have saved $518 million? And now we have reduced it, we have reduced it to a level of $385 million. I think we have made significant inroads and yet preserved the ability of agencies to go into a country with limited educational opportunities to give them advice.

Maybe it can be through a church, maybe it can be through abstinence programs, but I do think education in that manner actually denies the probability of abortions even being presented. But if they were presented, none of this money could ever be used under any circumstance for an abortion anywhere in the world for family planning purposes.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, if the gentleman would yield further, the efficiency of the programs are to be questioned. If you look at the Norplant program, they put this Norplant in hundreds of thousands of women. It is not a good medication. I have personal experience from it. Then they use that as an example of the reason to promote it in the United States.

Mr. TORRES. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of games words.

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. TORRES. I yield to the gentle- and woman from California.

Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, I once again reiterate my opposition to the Paul amendment and support the statement of our chairman, Mr. CALLAHAN.

As this Congress should know by now, because it has been reiterated on this floor, no money in this bill can be used for abortion. That is the Helms language. That is the law of the land. Let us be clear.

So we want to take it to a fungibility place. I hope that Mr. PAUL will support the Gilman-Pelosi-Campbell Lowey-DeLauro-Slaughter-Greenwood proposal on the floor tomorrow, which addresses the fungibility issue very directly.

First of all, I do not think it needs to be addressed. But for those who need that comfort and clarification, I am pleased to be a supporter of that amendment. In that amendment it says that none of the funds would go to organizations that do not promote abortion as a method of family planning and that utilize these funds to prevent abortion as a method of family planning. It puts these conditions on receiving the funds; also, it says, except in the case of organizations that do not promote abortion as a method of family planning.

So there is nothing about fungibility here. This is about organizations that promote family planning and discourage the use of abortion for family planning. So fungibility is not a principle that applies here.

But if we are going to use the principles of fungibility, we are opening a door for many issues across the board in this bill and every other bill that comes along. I do not know that this Congress wants to go down that path.

But I am pleased to say that the amendment that will be offered tomorrow as an amendment to the Smith amendment will clarify, once and for all, this is not about fungibility. It is about family planning, and none of the money goes to any organization, unless they are promoting family planning and discouraging abortion as a tool for that.

Mr. TORRES. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, I would also go on record opposing the amendment of the gentleman from Texas. I want to reiterate, as the gentlewoman from California has said, that I will support her amendment tomorrow.

Mr. HOSTETTLER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas .

There are so many reasons to support this amendment, an amendment whose time has come. This amendment will eliminate funding for all population control activities overseas. We have spent hour upon hour in this Chamber debating the many issues surrounding foreign aid, which includes the funding for international family planning.

There are many problems with the U.S. taxpayer spending nearly $400 million every year for international population control activities. One very obvious and practical problem that can- not be ignored is that the taxpayer simply cannot afford this type of program any longer.

I wish I could count the number of times I have come to the floor to speak out in one way or another against excessive Federal spending and Government intervention. Every time I implore Members of this body to consider how we are sabotaging our children’s futures, how we slowly but surely chip away at any prospects for a solid financial foundation every time we vote to spend more and more tax dollars on in- appropriate and unconstitutional programs without any regard to the reality of our Federal Government’s financial situation.

But there is an even bigger problem than one simply associated with dollars. This problem is more fundamental to the appropriate role of the Federal Government as defined by the Constitution.

Some might say that many provisions of this appropriations bill fall outside of the guidelines given to us by the Constitution. Some might say that a debate of that nature goes beyond the scope of this amendment.

I think we should talk about the Constitution more. I think that every time we consider a bill, an amendment, a motion to instruct conferees, every time we take any legislative action, we should remember our oath to uphold the Constitution. This means that sometimes, even when things sound like a great idea or the perfect solution to a problem facing our constituents back home, or faceless and nameless individuals suffering thousands of miles away, we have to show some restraint, if only because we are not empowered to act outside the legislative walls erected for us by our Founding Fathers.

Furthermore, I believe that international population control funding is not even a good idea. What concerns me greatly is that it appears that many of my colleagues have simply accepted the assertions of the population control lobby when they constantly and unfailingly contend that over- population is the cause of nearly all of the world’s human suffering.

For decades, we have heard doomsday predictions that the Earth’s population is growing so much, to the point that we will soon be unable to sustain this rate of growth. Make no mistake about it and do not be misled. This is not an overcrowded planet. Too many people are not the problem.

I would assert, however, that those more interested in redistributing wealth and power have everything to lose if the myth of an unsustainable population explosion is debunked. I would further contend that sound public, policy based on real science, not misguided public and political maneuvers and schemes based on radical environmentalism, is the answer to the world’s hunger and environmental problems. Flooding Third World developing and developed countries with potentially harmful contraceptives and family planning information, while appearing to meet a very humanitarian need, is such a misguided policy.

There have been numerous reports about the atrocities many women have suffered, all under the auspices of family planning.  We have seen women in the slums of Bangladesh and Haiti who are part of experimentation with Norplant. I’m We have heard accounts of women in Turkey who were told by volunteers that ‘‘family planning’’ is more important than husbands, tradition, culture or God, and that sterilization is better than children.

Surely even those who advocate dollars for responsible population control policy would be alarmed at this information. Surely we should not force our constituents to contributes  to these programs that undermine the cultures of our neighbors.

Mr. Chairman, I would simply conclude by expressing once again that we need to reevaluate our priorities, our financial situation, and most importantly, our constitutional obligations, and support this amendment.

Mrs. LOWEY. I rise in strong opposition to this amendment which will eliminate USAID funding for international family planning.

The need for family planning services in developing countries is urgent and the aid we provide is both valuable and worthwhile. Last February, both the House and the Senate showed their commitment to the USAID International Family Planning Program by voting for the early release of the funds for this program.

Eliminating family planning will deeply hurt millions of women and children.

Nearly 600,000 women die each year of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth; 99 percent of these women live in developing countries. In many countries, women are the primary caregivers of children and a mother’s survival is crucial to the survival and well- being of her children. Our international family planning programs are working to reduce maternal deaths and illness due to childbirth.

The ability to control the timing and spacing of childbearing helps mothers, infants, and children thrive. Infants born less than 2 years after a sibling are more likely to have low birth weight, making them more vulnerable to ill- ness and death. One in five infant deaths alone could be averted by the better spacing of births.

In addition, the health of the mother is also put at risk when couples cannot control the number and timing of births. For example, very young women and women who have births very close together are at greater risk for postpartum hemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal death. And for every woman who dies during childbirth, many more face injuries and infections, leaving them permanently dis- abled or infertile.

This amendment will prevent us from eliminating these tragedies. Simply put—this amendment will end our family planning programs. Period.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment. We cannot let them eliminate international family planning—there is too much at stake. I urge you to continue this vital investment in the reproductive health and safety of women and children.

The CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas .

The question was taken; and the Chairman announced that the noes apparently to have it.

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.

The CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to the order of the House of Thursday, July 24, 1997, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas will be postponed.

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