WASHINGTON — Pro-lifers were delighted when one of President George W. Bush's first orders of business was to reinstate the Mexico City policy two days after his inauguration.

“Taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad,” the Jan. 22, 2001, White House memorandum stated. The memo revived an executive order issued by President Ronald Reagan at the International Conference on Population in Mexico City in 1984, which was suspended throughout the eight-year Bill Clinton presidency.

However, two years into the new administration, insiders say, a pro-abortion cadre within the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) continues to channel federal dollars to groups that support abortion, prostitution, homosexual sex and needle-sharing under the guise of “reproductive health.” Ironically, some of the pro-abortion cash is being paid out under “faith-based initiatives” and Bush's $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.

The allegations come from Wash ington sources that support the executive order and want to ensure Bush's policy is implemented.

One, an unnamed Senate staffer, told C-Fam, the New York-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, that State Department officials are counseling nongovernmental organizations on how to extend the lifeline to pro-abortion groups. By “coaching” activists “on how to circumvent” the Mexico City policy, the Senate staffer told C-Fam's March 7 Friday Fax newsletter, bureaucrats have made Bush's policy “an empty shell.”

A three-page background paper distributed by sources in the House of Representatives documented USAID's March 13 $50 million HIV-AIDS grant to “pro-abortion, pro-prostitution, pro-needle-exchange groups.”

The money, according to USAID's press release, is for a “consortium of international development and faith-based organizations” headed by the aid organization Care, which includes the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Programs, Bri tain't International HIV/AIDS Alliance, the International Center for Research on Women and the World Council of Churches.

Many of these groups openly flout Bush policy. The British AIDS group opposes “marginalization of behaviors such as sex for money, sex between men and injecting drug use” and supports “distribution of safe needles and syringes,” according to its own Web site. The World Council of Churches supports “reproductive rights.”

Another recipient, the International Center for Research on Women, promotes abortion, although spokeswoman Carole Ma honey said it is “strictly a research organization.” One of its projects in India, however, is the “interaction between abortion and women's ability to exercise reproductive rights and choice,” according to center documents.

Press releases from these organizations quote Dr. Anne Peterson, assistant administrator for global health at USAID, saying, “We cannot win this war against AIDS without much broader partnerships with faith and community-based organizations,” a reference to the anti-Bush groups.

Peterson was herself a Bush appointee then believed to have strong pro-life credentials. But in October she announced a $65 million USAID grant to the Population Council, which in September 2000 boasted of having “worked long and hard” to make the mifepristone RU-486 abortion drug “available in the United States.”

More hints of USAID complicity appear in Population Action International's booklet “What You Need To Know About the Global Gag Rule Restrictions” (“global gag rule” is pro-abortionists’ term for the Mexico City policy), a 12-page manual that explains how nongovernmental organizations can get around the regulations and promote abortion. Page 9 refers activists to allies at USAID.

USAID spokesman Alfonso Aguilar was reluctant to comment. Asked whether AIDS money is going to family planning that includes abortion, he said: “That is still to be determined. The president's policy is very clear and both State Department and [US]AID officers are following it.”

As Washington girded for war, White House spokesman Mercy Viana said only that “the president believes in strictly enforcing the Mexico City policy and ensuring that funds are not being used by organizations with family-planning programs.”

“USAID is following that policy,” she said, declining comment on allegations that the guidelines are being foiled by subterfuge.

‘Incestuous’ Network

Pro-life Sens. Rick Santorum, RPa., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., did not return calls for comment. Nor did Congressmen Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Henry Hyde, R-Ill. But sources on Capitol Hill said pro-lifers there are “constantly trying to track where the money goes,” monitoring the “highly incestuous” network of federal employees and nongovernmental organizations determined to keep abortion funds flowing.

To Deal Hudson, the editor of Crisis magazine who is seen as a key link between Bush and orthodox Catholic viewpoints, the allegations come as no surprise.

“The position of those of us who talk to the White House is not to let that money get into the pipeline at all,” he said. “What's got to happen is for the White House to recognize that family planning means abortion, not contraception.”

However, Austin Ruse, the president of C-Fam, believes “90% of the people involved don't know what the Mexico City policy is, even in the White House.”

Pro-abortion groups like it that way. The International Center for Research on Women's Mahoney said there is “a lot of unclarity about what such an application would or wouldn't do ... I haven't seen anything to date about how and when the Mexico City policy would be applied.”

As for whether AIDS money is being used to undermine the spirit of Bush's executive order, Mahoney said: “We have no knowledge of that at all. I am not sure how it applies.”

Hudson said every administration tries to implement its agenda in part by placing loyal staff in key positions. But, he added, “It can be very difficult to overcome entrenched resistance. It's a fact of life.” He said the White House is well aware that it needs to keep an eye on USAID.

Ruse called the issue a “long-term problem in any administration, getting the bureaucracy to do what it wants.”

This is especially true in the area of “family planning,” Ruse said, “because family planners have been so deeply ensconced for decades. Unless the president practically walks over there himself and gives a direct order, they will do exactly what they want.”

Chris Champion writes from Ottawa.