THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 1757, the "Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998".
I take this action for several reasons, most importantly, because the Congress has included in this legislation unacceptable restrictions on international family planning programs and threatened our leadership in the world community by tying our payment of dues to the United Nations and other international organizations to these unrelated family planning issues.
Current law, with which Administration policy is fully consistent, already prohibits the use of Federal funds to pay for abortion abroad and for lobbying on abortion issues. This bill would go beyond those limits. One provision would deny U.S. Government funding for family planning programs carried out by foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that use their own funds to perform abortions even though the overall result of these NGO family planning programs is to reduce the incidence of abortion. Although the bill allows the President to waive this restriction, use of the waiver would also cripple many programs by limiting annual spending for international family planning to $356 million, $44 million below the amount available for Fiscal Year 1998.
A second provision would attempt to restrict the free speech of foreign NGOs by prohibiting funding for those that use their own funds to engage in any activity intended to alter the laws of a foreign country either to promote or to deter abortion. The bill would even ban drafting and distributing material or public statements on abortion. The bill does not contain a waiver for this restriction.
These restrictions and the funding limit would severely jeopardize the ability of the United States to meet the growing demand for family planning and other critical health services in developing countries. By denying funding to organizations that offer a wide range of safe and effective family planning services, the bill would increase unwanted pregnancies and lead to more abortions than would otherwise be the case.
I am also deeply concerned that the Congress has effectively tied these unacceptable restrictions on international family planning to payment of legitimate U.S. arrears to the United Nations and other international organizations. A strong United Nations, with the United States playing a leadership role, is in our national interest. Payment of our dues to the United Nations is essential to our ability to lead. There are strongly held beliefs on both sides of the debate over international population policy. These issues ought to be considered separately on their own merits; they should not be permitted to hinder U.S. obligations to the world community.
The package authorizing arrears payments linked to UN reforms was the result of good-faith negotiations between my Administration and the Congress more than a year and a half ago. Unfortunately, due to the passage of time, some of these conditions are now outdated and are no longer achievable. In particular, the fact that the UN has concluded negotiations on assessment rates for the next 3 years has significantly decreased our ability to negotiate a limitation on the U.S. assessed share of the UN regular budget below 22 percent. Furthermore, the increase in contested arrears during this period requires that the United States have additional flexibility in obtaining a contested arrears account. While many of the UN reform benchmarks in the package remain acceptable, significant revisions are required, and I look forward to working with the Congress next year to secure the payment of our arrears and an achievable package of UN reforms.
The Bill contains important and carefully negotiated authority to reorganize the foreign affairs agencies and other basic authorities for these agencies. Many of these provisions were supported by my Administration, and I am pleased that they have been included in the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for FY 1999.
For the foregoing reasons, I am compelled to return H.R. 1757 without my approval.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, October 21, 1998. # # #