US-funded effort to legalize abortion in Kenya could date back 10 years

Rep. Chris Smith.
Rep. Chris Smith.


The U.S. government has wrongly taken sides by spending taxpayer money to promote Kenya’s proposed constitution, Rep. Chris Smith is charging. He reports an investigation has found that one well-funded group in 2000 urged the U.S. to support efforts to “eventually legalize abortion in Kenya” by supporting civic organizations.

The exposure of some grantees “may only be a tip of the iceberg,” the congressman claimed, reiterating the possibility that U.S. funding for an effort which would expand legal abortion could violate U.S. law.

Speaking at a Wednesday press conference, Rep. Smith (R-N.J.), ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, said that U.S. involvement in the Aug. 4 constitutional referendum should be limited to ensuring the vote on the proposal is “free, fair and without violence.”

“Under no circumstances should the U.S. government take sides by supporting, facilitating and funding projects designed to identify and motivate votes for either side,” he continued. “Yet that is precisely what the Obama Administration has done.”

According to Rep. Smith, evidence gathered by Donald Gambatesa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Inspector General (IG), shows that the group Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) is receiving almost $3 million in U.S. grants.

In 2000, the group advised USAID that its Kenya branch would benefit by supporting organizations advocating for “efforts to eventually legalize abortion in Kenya.” Noting that such activity would be “politically sensitive,” DAI suggested that USAID support local advocacy groups as part of the agency’s democracy objectives.

Rep. Smith said he and his colleagues noted with “alarm, shock and dismay” that the USAID Inspector General’s evidence “clearly shows the Obama Administration has funded grantees with the express purpose of identifying and mobilizing tens of thousands of ‘yes’ votes.”

The congressman said that some grantees have “specific quotas” of “yes” votes built in their contract, adding “more than $23 million U.S. taxpayer funds have either been spent or obligated—far exceeding earlier estimates.”

He explained that U.S. law bars taxpayer funds from being used to lobby either for or against abortion, but the proposed constitution would allow abortion for “undefined ‘health’ reasons.” He said this often means “just about any reason.”

The inclusion of an exception for the life of the mother, in Rep. Smith’s view, makes it clear that the drafters intended “health” to mean something different. He also criticized ambiguity in a provision that a trained “health care professional” will determine the “need” for abortion.

According to the Congressman, the Kenyan Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya), which in 2008 began a campaign for more permissive abortion laws, received $85,363 from USAID for advocacy activities related to the draft constitution. The organization is a member of the Kenyan Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance (RHRA), which is supported by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA).

RHRA helped draft “reproductive health provisions for the revised constitution,” according to Rep. Smith.

Rep. Smith reported that though the U.S. Embassy in Kenya at first denied concerns about illegal activity, a spokeswoman has since reported that nine grantees had been suspended or their work concluded. The congressman presumed it was because of issues he and his colleagues had raised.

“We are also deeply concerned that the nine grantees may be only a tip of the iceberg,” he continued, calling on the USAID IG to investigate further.

Kenya’s Catholic bishops have said the proposed constitution is “fundamentally flawed” because of its treatment of abortion.

Over 170 pro-life leaders from 21 countries have signed a petition organized by the World Congress of Families supporting opposition to the proposed constitution. Signatories include former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Boston mayor and Vatican ambassador Ray Flynn as well as pro-life groups and current or former political leaders from Britain, Australia, Poland, the Philippines and the European Union.

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