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House links abortion to bill on foreign aid

The House voted Wednesday to cut off aid to organizations that perform legal or illegal abortions abroad or lobby to change other countries' abortion laws. Opponents said the restriction would end U.S. support for family planning around the world.

The provision, passed 243-187 as an amendment to a $12-billion foreign aid bill, echoes a section of previous legislation President Clinton has said he would veto. But it is now part of a foreign aid appropriations bill Republicans have been trying to make veto-proof by holding on to enough fragile Democratic support to discourage or override a rejection by the White House.

The amendment threatened to undermine that effort. Rep. Jan Meyers, R-Kan., said its inclusion will force her to vote against the entire bill, which provides funding for foreign aid and export support.

Meyers, among 36 Republicans who opposed the amendment, failed in an effort to reduce the impact of the abortion amendment. She described the proposals put forward by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., as a "cruel and harsh amendment" that would deny health and family planning services to the world's poorest women.

Smith said his amendment is was "pro-life and anti-coercion" and would save unborn infants around the world from death.

On Tuesday, the House trimmed an additional $73-million from the foreign aid appropriations bill, which, as written by Republican-controlled committees, already would reduce aid 11 percent below this year and 19 percent below President Clinton's $14.8-billion request.

In addition to aid cuts affecting nearly all countries except Israel and Egypt _ they would be maintained at current levels of $3-billion and $2.1-billion respectively _ the bill cuts 40 percent from support of the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

Final passage was expected later Wednesday or today. It would then go to the Senate for consideration later in the session.