Obama Violates Federal Law by Forcing Abortion Rights on Kenya


Tiffany Barrans

November 17, 2011

5 min read

Pro Life



A recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, revealed that the Obama administration has broken the law. The GAO’s report establishes that at least one Obama grantee openly lobbied to expand abortion in Kenya despite the longstanding law, known as the Siljander Amendment, that prohibits U.S. tax dollars from being used to lobby for or against abortion in other countries.

But at least one Obama grantee did just that and more. The report reveals that the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) received $400,000 from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to, according to the grant’s stated purpose, “contribute to the enactment of a revised constitution of Kenya that resolves the underlying causes of conflict.”

Reaching far beyond the scope of its grant agreement, the IDLO instead provided advice “on the issues of fetal rights and abortion, though the draft had not mentioned either issue at this point. Specifically, the IDLO report advised that the [Kenyans’ Committee of Experts (COE), the body primarily responsible for drafting and finalizing the constitution,] 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.” Exposing the IDLO’s directed advice, the GAO report states that IDLO advised the COE that “in the coming years, the Kenyan Parliament may wish to take such measures. One way to handle this would be to modify [the constitution] to make clear that a person is a human being who has been born.”

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), who is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, said that “[t]he IDLO communications to the Kenyans introduced the abortion issue into the constitutional debate, ‘advised’ the Kenyans to include language in the constitution that clearly supported the legalization of abortion, and expressed opposition to later proposed language that would have restricted access to abortion.” Smith added, “If this isn’t lobbying, what is?”

This troubling report begs several questions:

  • Why did the USAID officer in charge of reviewing IDLO’s grant not catch that IDLO had violated the terms of its grant and violated the Siljander Amendment?
  • Why, when the Office of the Inspector General investigated U.S. aid to Kenya in 2010, did it quickly dismiss allegations from a Member of Congress, finding that no funds were used to lobby for abortion? Why did the Inspector General’s report not reveal similar findings found by the GAO?

In light of GAO’s report, we must investigate whether the Obama administration took steps to cover up its unlawful activity. It is clear, however, that this investigation should be conducted by someone other than the Office of the Inspector General, which has already failed to provide a competent, thorough and neutral report.

Additionally, the GAO report reveals that a key Obama official refused to cooperate with the GAO investigation into the activities initiated by the USAID and the State Department during the 2010 constitutional referendum in Kenya. Congressman Chris Smith has called for further investigation:

“That a high-ranking official in the Obama Administration, Under Secretary 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. . . . What else might they be hiding?”

The GAO report recommends that Congress and USAID draft clear guidelines about how to comply with the Siljander Amendment. But the Amendment seems quite clear even to the average reader; put simply, those using U.S. funds should have no involvement in lobbying for or against abortion.

Looking forward, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the Obama administration does not continue to use U.S. funds to promote abortion abroad. Of specific concern, USAID recently granted IDLO another cooperative grant in the amount of $995,000. The stated purpose of the grant is to support the Kenyan Parliament as it brings its domestic laws into compliance with the Constitution. With the provisions in the Kenyan Constitution broadening abortion rights, the Obama administration through IDLO’s efforts are in a position to draft broad abortion laws and again violate federal law.

Tragically, Kenyans must now deal with the consequences of the Obama administration’s intrusive and unlawful actions. When the Kenyan Constitution was amended to include IDLO’s recommendation broadening abortion rights, many in Kenya, including Joy Mdivo, the Director of our affiliate office the East Africa Centre for Law & Justice, knew the language represented an encroachment by foreign pro-abortion activism into the lives of the deeply pro-life Kenyan people. According to a poll conducted in Kenya last year by Synovate, 69 percent of Kenyans are against legalizing abortions and only 9 percent support legalized abortions. Remarkably, 77 percent of Kenyans stated that life begins at conception.

Responding to the GAO report, Director Mdivo said “[a]s a friendly nation, the United States’ footprint is quite large in Kenya. This report shows a betrayal by a trusted friend. . . .With the Constitution implementation process ongoing, vigilance by Kenyans must be heightened. We must be aware that there are those who offer a poisoned chalice, claiming it is refreshment.”