Gore, Clinton Take Heat for Conservative Victory on Abortion Funding

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Al Gore finds himself in a difficult position with abortion rights advocates, because of President Clinton's recent deal with congressional conservatives - a deal that allows the United States to pay the back dues it owes the United Nations.

As part of that deal, congressional conservatives agreed to free up the money, as long as it won't be spent on family-planning groups that lobby for or perform abortions overseas. President Clinton agreed to the funding restrictions, but he also retained the right to grant waivers to certain organizations.

"This will be a campaign issue no matter what," said Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "If [Gore] doesn't speak up, his silence will be eloquent and noted," said Feldt (as quoted by wire services).

Gore, speaking Monday to Microsoft employees near Seattle, said the deal "is not one that I like, but facing the situation the president faced, it is understandable to me he made the decision that he did." Gore said if it were up to him, "I would immediately sign a waiver that renders the language null and void, and I'm sure the president will sign a waiver."

President Clinton is getting lots of criticism for "caving in" to pro-life conservatives, who make no apology for standing up for the rights of the unborn. "It constitutes this administration's most offensive about-face on the right to choose," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said the deal "is putting the women of the world at risk in order to placate the right wing Republicans who control Congress."

Even the administration's allies say White House negotiators should never have let it get to the point where conservatives were able to give Clinton an all-or-nothing choice. But ultimately, that's what happened.

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) led the conservative effort to cut off grants to family planning groups that promote abortion rights overseas. (It was President Reagan who first issued an executive order imposing the funding restrictions.) Rep. Smith and his conservative supporters gave Clinton an ultimatum: Reinstate Reagan's order, and we'll give you the UN money.

Last year, Clinton vetoed a bill to pay the back dues rather than accept Smith's restrictions, but this year, the situation is much more urgent: The United States risks losing its vote in the General Assembly if it doesn't pay its back dues by the end of the year.

In an interview with the New York Times on Monday, Smith called the right-to-life issue "the human rights issue of our time."