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On the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President George W. Bush took a significant first step in support of life by restoring the Mexico City Policy. This U.S. policy, in effect from 1984 until President Clinton rescinded it on January 22, 1993, was designed to stop nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) receiving U.S. funds from circumventing Congress's intent under the 1973 Helms Amendment.
Under the Helms Amendment, NGOs active in "family planning" could not use U.S. funds to perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning overseas. Some NGOs eviscerated the law through simple bookkeeping entries. For example, if the U.S. gives the hypothetical FamPlan, Inc. $5 million, FamPlan might use that money in mass sterilization programs, and then divert $5 million acquired from other sources into promoting and performing abortions. And in fact, notwithstanding the Helms Amendment, between 1973 and 1984 the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) continued its barrage against other nation's laws protecting unborn children, and even distributed abortion equipment in some countries where abortion was illegal.
At the 1984 U.N. conference on population in Mexico City, the Reagan administration announced a corrective policy: as a condition of receiving U.S. funds, NGOs involved in family planning must agree not to perform abortions or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.
A dangerous restriction? A monstrous imposition of right-wing ideology? You'd think so from the reaction of abortion lobbyists when President Bush restored the policy this year. "A malicious affront" to women, charged Janet Benshoof, president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation fumed: "We know that worldwide almost 80,000 women die each year from illegal, unsafe abortion." Now President Bush has shown he's "willing to sacrifice women's health to score points with the religious right."
The comment's unfairness is exceeded only by its illogic. If an NGO can't perform or promote abortions with U.S. money in any case--under the Helms Amendment--how could the Mexico City Policy have any effect on the alleged 80,000 deaths from illegal abortion? In fact, five years after the policy took effect, the New York Times (Feb. 27, 1989) reported that the "dramatic rise in unwanted births and unsafe abortions" predicted by opponents of the policy could not be documented.
Critics and credulous media friends of the abortion lobby prophesied darkly: "The abortion restrictions are likely to increase teen pregnancies in Europe and the spread of AIDS in Africa. The London-based [IPPF] said it may have to cancel some of its programs promoting safe sex and contraception, especially in Africa and Asia" (Williamson, Telegram & Gazette [Worcester, Mass.], Jan. 25, 2001).
The President's refusal to pay for foreign abortions responsible for more teen pregnancy? more AIDS? This is quite a stretch. Our culture admittedly does not want to hear about personal moral responsibility, but–and this is just a hunch–would not the sexual activities of the individuals involved (given a false security by Planned Parenthood's programs) be a likelier cause of teen pregnancy and AIDS?
IPPF's claims are not credible, but then its trustworthiness with taxpayer funds is equally dubious, as recent history suggests.
Thanks to the bold leadership of Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), President Clinton was forced to accept a modified Mexico City Policy last year in exchange for Congress's agreement to pay to the U.N. our disputed back dues. Some 448 population control groups certified to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that they would abide by the Mexico City Policy. IPPF (which received $5 million), the World Health Organization (recipient of $2 million) and a few other NGOs refused to so certify. Congress allotted 4% of its total population assistance budget for these non-certifiers–all they had to abide by was the original Helms Amendment.
In March 2000, the General Accounting Office (GAO) notified USAID officials that the Office planned to audit IPPF's use of the $5 million grant. In late April 2000, the GAO telephoned IPPF to set the date for the audit visit, May 25-26, 2000. At that point IPPF happened to discover that its affiliates in India and Uganda had paid for abortions using the $700,000 IPPF had disbursed to them from U.S. funds. On May 12, IPPF transferred $700,000 from other accounts to replenish the USAID account. No sanctions, no penalties have been reported for this violation.
In defending IPPF's error and USAID's poor oversight, USAID acting administrator Richard Nygard betrayed his disagreement with U.S. policy. He bemoaned the "negative consequences of these restrictions," adding: "Numerous partner organizations have expressed their concerns with how this restriction affects their ability to provide comprehensive health services and to participate fully in the democratic processes in their own countries" (Archibald, "Fearing Audit, Group Repays $700,000 Used to Fund Abortions," The Washington Times, Oct. 5, 2000).
Ingar Brueggemann, director-general of IPPF, "called abortion a 'human right' that her group will not sign away" (Id.). She pointed the finger of blame at GAO auditors who "made us believe we were not in a position to sign the gag rule [against abortion advocacy] because of a human rights issue. ... Women should not be endangered purely by a birth. Safe, legal abortion is needed" (Id.)
Women's health and safety seems a secondary concern to many of these groups. Their foremost goal is to control population growth in developing nations. In the January 26 PRI Weekly Briefing, Steve Mosher, president of Population Research Institute, notes that "population growth rate reduction" is one of the four stated objectives of USAID. He provides details of an $80 million, five-year contract between USAID and one such "family planning" group, AVSC (formerly called the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception). "In order to meet the United Nations medium population projection for the year 2000," the contract states, "service providers in developing countries will have to perform 150 million sterilizations, insert 310 million IUDs, implant 31 million sets of Norplant, give 663 million injections, distribute 8.8 billion cycles of oral contraceptives and 44 billion condoms" (USAID document CCP-3068-A-00-3017-00 AVSC; p. 19). Those goals aren't being set by families– they're being set by bureaucrats bent on population control.
So, while we welcome the reinstated Mexico City Policy as a positive first step, we look forward to the day when U.S. foreign assistance will go to those groups which provide education, nutrition and primary health care for the world's children and not to NGOs whose goal is to prevent them from ever being born.
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