by Catherine A. Deeds
March 6, 1998
As the second session of the 105th Congress gets underway, pro-life members of Congress face a limited number of legislative days this year to pass pro-life legislation, much of which will include revisiting some of the identical issues that were not enacted last year. But they are no less determined! Strategically, the legislative situation is made more difficult because Congress often passes pro-life legislation only to have President Clinton reject or veto as he did with the ban on partial-birth abortion. Another example, and one of the first pro-life debates which will occur soon has to do with over whether to reinstate the Mexico City Policy.
The Mexico City Policy, an effective U.S. pro-life policy that for the years it was in place, 1984 through 1992, prevented many abortion advocacy groups such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the London-based International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) from getting millions of dollars in U.S. population assistance to promote abortion overseas. The policy -- which President Clinton immediately rescinded after he was sworn in as president in 1993 -- required non-governmental organizations to keep a strict wall of separation between abortion and family planning, even with their "own" funds, or lose their U.S. funding base. The policy also effectively prohibited groups from using taxpayer funds to actively lobby to overturn the pro-life laws of foreign countries, often in violation of the country's own cultural traditions or religious beliefs. While reasonable people may disagree about the government's role in providing family planning, a majority clearly does not recognize abortion as a method of family planning. At the UN's own international population conferences of 1984 and 1994, the nations of the world condemned any use of abortion as a method of family planning.
Federal law has long prohibited foreign aid funds from directly paying for abortions. However, the current Administration still provides millions of dollars every year to organizations that believe that killing a child before -- or during -- birth is "family planning" and act on that belief. Since all organizational money is fungible, when the U.S. government dispenses taxpayers' money to these organizations without strings or conditions, it frees up other of their funds to be used for abortion-related activities or programs. These organizations such as Planned Parenthood should not be rewarded with U.S. funds. While the Mexico City Policy was in place, IPPF and PPFA refused to comply and lost their U.S. funding. They have been receiving it again in recent years. In fact, a five year $75 million grant to IPPF expires this year.
Many developing nations have laws against abortion. Their people oppose abortion on religious or cultural grounds. In 1994, for example, abortion on request or for economic and social reasons was legal in only 12 of 133 developing countries (United Nations report). It is wrong for the U.S. government to support undermining the laws of others, whether directly or indirectly.
The U.S. funds overseas organizations through the population assistance fund which is the single largest component of the Development Assistance budget, administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). More is spent by USAID on population than the U.S. spends on all child survival programs and other important life-saving initiatives at home. Since 1993, when President Clinton rescinded the Mexico City Policy, the budget has included money for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), despite its cooperation with the Chinese government's forced abortion and birth quota policies. Rep. Chris Smith's (R-NJ) efforts to restore the Mexico City Policy would also defund the UNFPA until it stopped all activity in China.
American taxpayers should not be forced to export our nation's terrible abortion policy, nor should they be made to support groups that promote and perform abortion and lobby other nations to do so as well. Last year, Congress tried unsuccessfully to restore the Mexico City Policy, despite President Clinton's threatened veto. In the end, President Clinton dug in his heals and refused to accept the Mexico City Policy under any circumstances. So adamant was he about this that he gave up a number of things, tied to the Mexico City policy, that he claimed to strongly support. So, Congress left town and left the Administration without funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), back payments to the United Nations, or funds to reorganize the State Department, because of its refusal to accept MCP.
The debate continues and once again Congress intends to link the Mexico City Policy to other outstanding foreign aid funding issues. Rep. Chris Smith and the leadership in Congress insist they will not appropriate money for IMF and the UN, unless the Administration agrees to the Mexico City Policy. President Clinton should be urged by all Americans to sign the Mexico City Policy into law -- which would also assure the Administration of important funds for IMF and payment of back dues to the United Nations.
The Mexico City Policy provides an important safeguard for sovereign nations. It is also a law which respects the deepest belief of American taxpayers who cherish the gift of human life. Most importantly, it is a law which protects and respects pregnant women and their children unborn who ultimately suffer the deadly consequences of abortion.
Catherine Deeds is a public policy analyst at the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.