- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2010

The State Department on Thursday dismissed Republican criticism that it illegally funneled millions of taxpayers dollars to help pass the Kenyan constitution, which allows abortion in some cases.

The department’s Office of Inspector General (IG) said in a report the law was not violated because it found no evidence that U.S. officials made “any private or public statements … expressing either a positive or negative position on the abortion provision in the draft Kenyan constitution, nor did they attempt to influence any Kenyan’s opinion, either positively or negatively, on the abortion provision.”

“It is U.S. policy to actively support the Kenyan reform agenda, in which the constitutional review process figures prominently,” the report said. “It is not U.S. policy to take an active role in the specific provisions of the draft constitution.”

The report came in response to allegations last month by Republican congressmen that the $23 million in taxpayer money that went to pro-constitution agencies in Kenya violated the so-called Siljander Amendment. The amendment, named for its sponsor, Mark Siljander, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, says “no foreign assistance funds may be used to lobby for or against abortion.”

U.S. funding should not be used to tell the Kenyan people how to vote,” Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, said at a press conference last month. “The draft constitution, with its contentious provisions dramatically expanding abortion, is a matter for the Kenyan people to consider and decide themselves.”

The Kenyan constitution was approved overwhelmingly during a referendum last week, though will likely take years to fully implement.

The new constitution, which replaces one drafted as Kenya became independent from Britain in 1963, adds a bill of rights for the Kenyan people, reduces the power of the country’s president and implements a system of government similar in many ways to the U.S.

The new constitution also permits abortion only when the life of the mother is at risk and adds a health exception that pro-lifers say would essentially allow abortion on demand. Abortion had previously been illegal in Kenya.

The Obama administration had expressed support for the new Kenyan constitution. In a June interview with the Kenya Broadcasting Corp., President Obama called the proposed document a “singular opportunity to put the government of Kenya on a more solid footing.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. echoed Mr. Obama’s sentiments in his recent visit to the African nation, declaring that a new constitution will “unleash the energy of the youth, deepen the roots of your democracy, and ultimately guarantee [Kenyans’] security.”