Vote in Kenya: Why U.S. Abortion Debate Has Become a Factor

"We should be embracing the health and welfare of both mothers and children in Africa while respecting sovereign prolife laws," Smith said in a statement. "Instead the Obama Administration is trying to change Kenya's existing restriction on abortion through the referendum."

He cites a State Department Inspector General Report showing that some of the groups associated with voter education projects and which are being funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, are also tied to abortion-rights groups. In response to the report the US Embassy in Nairobi said it suspended funding to some of the voter education programs in question. There have also been accusations that anti-abortion rights groups linked to the Christian Right in the United States have helped fund the campaign against the referendum.

Abortion Debate a Distraction?

The Obama administration has publicly said it is neutral on how Kenyans vote in the referendum and supports the process, not the result. But senior administration officials including Under Secretary of State of African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Vice President Joseph Biden have also publicly said they support Kenya's reforms and that the country needs change.

Kenyan politicians opposed to the constitution say the controversy in the U.S. over the referendum is proof that this new constitution has a foreign agenda and that the people should reject it.

But Almami Cyllah, the Africa regional director for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, an election monitoring group tells ABC News that the debate over foreign influence is more of an interesting distraction than a true factor in how Kenyans will vote.

"In the final analysis it's the Kenyans who are going to vote," says Cyllah. "To claim that the U.S. Government or the Christian Right is pumping money to try and influence the vote may be possible, but if the people have the right information and they know what they are voting for those outside influences will not matter. "

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