by Bishop James T. McHugh
May 1, 1998
The U.S. Senate has approved a bill to pay the back dues owed the United Nations by the U.S., and to reorganize the U.S. State Department with a view to greater efficiency and economy. Over a period of years the U.S. has failed to pay the U.N. dues, which now amount to almost 1 billion dollars. President Clinton has urged Congress to allot the money for payment, which he says is essential to maintain U.S. credibility as a superpower. Speaking in more apocalyptic terms, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said that "our national security, and war and peace, are at risk by not having appropriate payment of U.N. arrears." Secretary of State Madeline Albright told Congress that "we're in danger of shutting down U.S. national security policy" for our failure to pay our dues.
Setting the rhetoric aside, it is a simple matter of justice. The United States participates in U.N. activities, benefits from the organization's presence in New York, uses the U.N. as a forum and vehicle to pursue U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. is also a member of the Security Council, giving it veto power over objectionable U.N. initiatives. Because the U.S. is one of the largest nations in the world, it is looked up to by smaller developing nations and has enormous influence in the world body. Failure to pay the dues for so many years is unjustifiable, and Mr. Clinton was correct in calling on Congress to eliminate the deficit.
Congress has responded, to the satisfaction of the U.N., other member nations and anyone with a sense of justice and equity. But President Clinton now threatens a veto of the legislation because it would also prohibit giving money to non-governmental organizations that aggressively lobby to change abortion laws, or perform illegal abortions in foreign nations. In effect, President Clinton is more committed to promoting abortion than to fulfilling the U.S. responsibility to pay its delinquent U.N. dues and protect national security. How did we get to this point?
U.S. law forbids the use of our funds to provide abortion as a method of family planning. This is also standard United Nations policy, as well as the law in many member nations. Over the years, however, non-governmental family planning organizations have engaged in lobbying efforts in foreign countries to do away with those laws. They are determined to make all nations include abortion as a family planning method.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation has in the past urged its affiliates to take "action outside the law, and even in violation of it, (as) part of the process of stimulating change" on abortion. The U.S.–based Pathfinder Fund, reporting on its program in Indonesia—where abortion is illegal—has argued that "the integration of early abortion services is a critical part of the improvement of quality of reproductive health care and Pathfinder is excited to participate in this important step for Indonesian women." There has been a long and determined effort to promote abortion as a method of family planning, and to undermine or destabilize laws in other nations that prohibit or restrict abortion.
The American people are not in favor of funding abortion services, and Congress has a right and duty to withhold American funds from agencies that oppose and undermine U.S. policies. President Clinton is more intent on protecting abortion promoters than on working with Congress to develop policies and strategies that fulfill U.S. responsibilities. The president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation has said that "In the past on this issue, President Clinton has very firmly supported us and all we believe in, and I'm confident that commitment will continue." It is unconscionable that the President wants to provide money to private, non-governmental organizations that are engaged in determined efforts to destabilize and even violate the laws of other nations.
It is because of the President's protection and support of these renegade private pro-abortion groups that both houses of Congress adopted Congressman Chris Smith's amendment to this funding bill. In response, the White House is trying to blame Smith for the delay in releasing funds for the U.N. and has characterized his amendment as "boneheaded." The truth is that Chris Smith mobilized reluctant House members who do not usually favor the U.N. funding to vote for the payment of back dues once his amendment was included.
President Clinton himself has been less than effective in garnering votes or creating favorable public opinion of the U.N. Now is the time for him to accept a reasonable proposal, even if it displeases one of the President's sacred cows.
The next week will tell the tale as Congress and the White House negotiate. It is absolutely necessary that the Administration be guided by fulfillment of U.S. responsibility to the United Nations, not by the President's commitments to pro-abortion groups.
Most Reverend James T. McHugh is bishop of Camden and a member of the NCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities.