Liberal Dems urge White House to allow foreign aid funding for abortion

Twelve liberal House members are urging the Obama administration to rewrite the rules for foreign aid so it's clear that information and counseling on abortion — and the procedure itself, in some cases — can be covered.

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"We are concerned that improper implementation of current foreign-assistance restrictions may be impeding our ability to provide even more effective and life-saving information and services," they wrote in a letter to President Obama. "In particular, we are concerned that the Helms Amendment — which restricts but does not prohibit abortion funding — is being implemented as though it were an absolute ban."

The letter comes after Obama signed an executive order this week making women's rights a key element of U.S. foreign policy. It says foreign assistance funding for abortion counseling and other information should be allowed, as well as for abortions themselves in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.

The letter goes on to point out that Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all allowed abortion in those circumstances even as their foreign aid policies excluded abortion "as a method of family planning."

"Funding abortion services in the cases of rape, life endangerment, and incest would assist women and help fulfill your stated goal of U.S. global-health-related foreign assistance: to save lives, reduce suffering, and support the health and dignity of people everywhere," the letter says. "We look forward to hearing from you about steps the Administration will take toward making U.S. foreign assistance even more responsive to the needs of women in developing countries by reviewing and updating the application of current law."

The letter is signed by Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Pete Stark (Calif.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Lois Capps (Calif.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Donald Payne (N.J.), Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), Diana DeGette (Colo.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.).