A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds the Obama administration gave taxpayer funds to an organization that illegally lobbied Kenya to liberalize its abortion law as the president’s ancestral nation revised its constitution. Moreover, a high-ranking State Department employee stonewalled the investigation.
The Obama administration dedicated at least $18 million to convince Kenyans to ratify the new constitution, which expanded women’s legal right to an abortion. Although a 1981 law known as the Siljander Amendment specifically states “none of the funds made available under this Act may be used to lobby for or against abortion,” one recipient of U.S. aid pressed the issue anyway.
The International Development Law Organization (IDLO) “provided technical assistance” to the Committee of Experts on Constitutional Review (COE) at each stage of the constitutional review. The U.S. taxpayer paid IDLO $400,000 for this service. After the COE drew up the first draft of the new constitution in November 2009 — which did not mention abortion — “the IDLO report advised that the COE might consider adding language to make clear that the fetus lacks constitutional standing, and that the rights of women under these articles therefore take priority.” IDLO’s report itself stated the COE should “modify [the constitution] to make clear that a person is a human being who has been born,” thus legalizing abortion during all nine months of pregnancy.
The following January, the second draft constitution allowed abortion only if “the life of the mother is in danger.” IDLO responded, “even understanding the powerful feelings invoked on all sides of the abortion issue, the omission of a ‘health of the mother’ exception in this provision seems overbroad.” That is precisely the formula the final draft adopted — despite the fact that the “health of the mother” exception has been used as a massive loophole granting an abortion for virtually any perceived malady including stress.
The report makes clear as many as 24 grant recipients discussed abortion in some way, although none specifically cited the expansion of death as a reason to vote for the new constitution.
The violation of the law has Congressman Chris Smith, R-NJ, livid. After reviewing IDLO’s actions, he asked, “If this isn’t lobbying, what is?” Smith assessed, “The Obama administration basically hired surrogates to do its dirty work of abortion promotion in Kenya.”
One administration official refused to meet with GAO investigators after numerous requests. “That a high-ranking official in the Obama Administration, Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero, chose not to cooperate with the GAO as they uncovered procedural and funding problems begs for further investigation and review,” Smith said. “What else might they be hiding?”
Otero traveled to Kenya with Phoebe Asyio, a commissioner on the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission and chair of the Kenyan Caucus for Women’s Leadership (CWL), a pro-abortion organization that supported the new draft constitution. In November-December 2010, Otero met with high-ranking Kenyan officials, including the prime minister, but now refuses to disclose the substance of her discussions.
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