As I noted yesterday, Senate Democrats, with the help of nine Republicans, were successful in passing an amendment that would force Americans to pay for abortions in foreign countries. On Wednesday, July 9, Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D.-Calif.) amendment repealing the Mexico City policy was agreed to after the Senate failed to table the pro-abortion amendment. The Mexico City policy, which was implemented by President Reagan in 1984, repealed by President Clinton in 1993, and reinstated by President Bush in 2001, bars organizations that perform or promote abortion overseas from receiving U.S. foreign assistance.
The most interesting aspect of the consideration of the amendment wasn’t the content of the amendment – the attempt to repeal the Mexico City policy was not unexpected nor was its passage by the “abortion chamber” of Congress – it was the debate and justification for the amendment by liberals.
No longer are Democrats claiming that the debate on the Mexico City policy centers on abortion: now it’s about the freedom of speech. Liberals like Sen. Boxer are avoiding the abortion argument altogether, knowing that most Americans would likely tell them tax dollars shouldn’t pay for the promotion or execution of abortions, and are now claiming that the policy violates the First Amendment.
Here are a few quotes from liberals who want to change the debate:
It is hard for me to understand that in a country as free as ours, in a country as great as ours, we would have a policy which we dare not do in our own country because it would be clearly unconstitutional. A domestic gag rule is clearly unconstitutional. Why would we put such a policy forward and tell these little nonprofit organizations, that are struggling to meet the needs of the poorest of the poor, they would jeopardize their USAID funding if they absolutely do nothing more than even tell a patient what her legal options are, what her safe options are? (Congressional Record, page Ss9095)
We are doing things to these organizations we cannot do in this country because it is a violation of the Constitution; it is a violation of freedom of speech. We are going around the world trying to bring democracy to countries. We have soldiers dying for freedom of speech in Iraq right now–every single day. I have another 14 Californians who are dead since the war “ended.” Why are they there? They are fighting for freedom and democracy and freedom of speech for the Iraqi people. But we have a policy that takes away freedom of speech from folks who want to help people get health care. It is a very bizarre twist in our country’s history, and one that, believe me, is not lost on other nations. (Congressional Record, page S9097)
We don’t tell every group in this country that receives Federal funds they cannot talk about anything, because this is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Free speech is the basis of our country. (Congressional Record, page S9098)
Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.):
This policy violates a fundamental tenet of our democracy: freedom of speech. Exporting a policy that is unconstitutional in the United States is the ultimate act of hypocrisy. (Congressional Record, page S9100)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.):
I have come to the floor on several occasions in years past to express my deep concern for the global gag rule. (Congressional Record, page S9102)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R.-Maine):
Quite appropriately, this policy is also referred to as the international “gag rule” because it prevents organizations from even providing abortion counseling or referral services. (Congressional Record, page S9103)
Sen. Joseph Biden (D.-Del.):
Let us be clear what this issue is not about. The issue is not about abortion–although it is often portrayed as such by the proponents of Mexico City. Rather, the provision is about free speech and democratic values. (Congressional Record, page S9103-9104)
It is the policy of the United States to advance the cause of democracy by promoting the values which we hold dear–such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of the press. [. . .] This is a gag rule, pure and simple. It restricts speech. And for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone — Republican or Democrat — would support a provision that would violate the First Amendment if applied to U.S.-based organizations. (Congressional Record, page S9104)
Unfortunately, Republicans did not storm to the Senate floor to counter the liberals’ claims that the Mexico City policy restricts free speech. Republicans did not remind Sen. Boxer that, in fact, the federal government is constantly telling organizations what they can and cannot do or say if they receive taxpayer monies.
No, Republicans were happy to get the debate over with quickly, vote against the amendment, and rely on the House to force its removal in conference. Thank God for conservatives in the House who have the courage to fight the pro-life fight and will not roll-over for liberals.
First Look: Liberals Vote to Repeal ‘Mexico City’ Policy
Text of Boxer Amendment
Roll Call Vote Tally on Boxer Amendment
Sen. Boxer’s Speech
Sen. Reid’s Speech
Sen. Feinstein’s Speech
Sen. Snowe’s Speech
Sen. Biden’s Speech