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Mexico City Reconsidered


by Susan E. Wills

February 16, 2001

In the last column, we applauded President George W. Bush's January 22nd reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy. The official policy of the United States under Presidents Reagan and Bush (senior), it prohibits nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in family planning from performing and actively promoting abortions, as a condition of receiving U.S. funds.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the U.S. abortion lobby reacted with fury and dark predictions of more teen pregnancies, more maternal deaths from "unsafe, illegal" abortions, and even more AIDS victims. The claims are not credible, and IPPF's trustworthiness with taxpayer funds is equally dubious.

Thanks to the bold leadership of Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, 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. disputed back dues. Some 488 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. That amendment, enacted law in 1973, prohibits NGOs from using U.S. funds to pay for the performance or promotion of abortion overseas.

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). These 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 more consistently support education, nutrition and primary health care for the world's children rather than their prevention and destruction.

Susan E. Wills is assistant director for program development, NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. 

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