by Bishop James T. McHugh
April 30, 2000
A few weeks ago the New York Times featured a story on Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Holbrooke is an experienced diplomat, strong-willed and energetic. Time will tell whether he can restore some of the prestige the U.S. had customarily enjoyed at the United Nations.
The article was positive in regard to Holbrooke on two points. First, he invited Senator Jesse Helms, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and generally a critic of the United Nations, to address the ambassadors from other nations and put forth his criticisms of U.N. inefficiency and its budget. A week later Helms invited the ambassadors to Washington, D.C. for a gracious reception and to meet with U.S. Senators. There was general agreement that the exchange was a healthy exercise.
This may have been especially beneficial after the long debate in the U.S. about the delinquency in paying our U.N. dues. This issue had been resolved earlier, in no small measure because of Holbrooke's concerted lobbying effort.
The second point in the article had to do with the lobbying effort that brought about the payment of U.S. dues. Many in Congress are critical of U.N. spending practices which they attribute to inefficiency. Nonetheless, agreements were reached in 1998 providing for payment of the dues, but President Clinton vetoed the legislation because it stipulated that money could not be given to international organizations that provide abortions or lobby foreign countries to change their abortion laws. Keep in mind that the U.S. policy, following Roe v. Wade, legally permits abortion for almost any reason but does not provide funding except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest. Note also that United Nations policy stipulates that abortion should never be treated as a method of family planning. This policy was challenged but upheld at the U.N. international conference on population held in Cairo in 1994.
In any case, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) had crafted an amendment to the Foreign Aid bill prohibiting the funding of international groups that provide or promote abortion in foreign nations. The abortion lobby then mounted a full-scale campaign attacking and demeaning Smith personally and pressuring Clinton to veto the bill. Holbrooke also lobbied to get rid of the Smith Amendment, indeed putting forth great personal energy and involvement in the effort. But he came to realize that Congress fully intended to support Smith. Accordingly, the President was then urged to sign the bill with a watered-down Smith Amendment.
Reacting to the New York Times' article, pro-abortion leaders, including some members of Congress, condemned Holbrooke, and opened a new campaign for increased U.S. foreign aid for population control. They described the Smith Amendment as a "global gag rule" and Holbrooke's efforts as a failure to stand on principle. These same Congresspersons, notably Nita Lowey and Carolyn Maloney (both of New York), have already introduced legislation to eliminate the Smith Amendment in the coming Fiscal Year.
Sadly, truth and objectivity have little impact on the abortion lobby. For the record, population growth rates continue to decline, with pronounced decreases in birth rates both in developed and developing nations. The major population problems today are aging and migration, and finding ways to help AIDS victims and eliminate the disease, not abortion "freedom." Nevertheless, we can look forward to months of dishonest rhetoric, a well-funded pro-abortion lobby and even character assassination as we approach the fall elections.
The determination of pro-abortion forces to reduce all foreign policy questions to establishing an international "right" to abortion on demand is all the more tragic for the U.S. because this is a time of great opportunity for our nation to provide international leadership on a wide range of global problems. Despite past failures of the Clinton Administration on foreign policy initiatives, our nation has helped on a number of specific humanitarian issues and many nations still look to us with hope. World leadership requires honesty, temperance and respect for life. This is our true challenge.
Bishop James T. McHugh is the Bishop of Rockville Centre, a member of the NCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities, and an advisor to the Holy See on matters of population.