WASHINGTON — The pro-life movement received the first of what could be many blows from the Obama administration when the president signed an executive order reversing the Mexico City Policy.
The policy, first put in place by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, prohibits U.S. funds from going to international groups that perform or promote abortions. Bill Clinton overturned it as one of his first acts as president in 1993, and President Bush reinstated it in 2001.
Catholic observers on international affairs view Obama’s Jan. 23 executive order overturning it as an expected yet disappointing move.
“The reversal of the Mexico City Policy not only hurts unborn children and their mothers, but also gives the United States a bad reputation around the world,” said Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. “This policy reversal will now allow the largest abortion providers in the world to use U.S. federal funds to operate their businesses. Americans on both sides of the abortion debate are certainly united in not wanting to provide government funding to the abortion industry.”
Along with the change in policy, the White House Jan. 27 replaced a pro-life administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Kent Hill, LifeNews reported. The agency’s website announced that it is implementing changes stemming from the Mexico City Policy reversal.
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) weighed in with harsh criticism of the president’s decision. “Our government has both a moral and constitutional obligation to protect the sanctity of human life,” said Inhofe. “I am extremely disappointed in this policy change and will do everything in my power to keep our government leaders committed to our constitutional right to life.”
Many Americans are concerned about the message the Obama decision will send to the rest of the world. “The rescinding of the Mexico City Policy will open up the floodgates again on U.S. taxpayer-funded abortions abroad and active promotion of abortion,” said Father Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International. “We need to stop telling the world that destroying their next generation through abortion and contraception is the answer to their problems.”
The United States bishops have expressed their frustration with the president’s move on the Mexico City Policy, as well as other anti-life pieces of legislation on the horizon. “President Obama’s executive order was a severe disappointment,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. “Women in developing countries need help providing for their children, not eliminating them. This is a reminder that we must be both prayerful and vigilant, as pro-life efforts are sure to come under attack in the near future.”
Women First, Not ‘Prevention’
The Prevention First Act is another piece of legislation that abortion opponents fear will be ushered in with the new leadership in Washington. Introduced on the opening day of this congressional session by U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the bill would send millions of dollars to organizations nationwide that support and provide abortions.
Pushed by its supporters as a “common ground” effort with a stated goal of reducing abortions, the Prevention First Act focuses primarily on providing increased access to contraception.
“There is no such thing as common ground on the issues of abortion and contraception,” said Father Euteneuer. “The opposition chooses to ignore the well-established fact that an increase in contraceptive use and availability always leads to an increase in abortion. The only common ground with this legislation is in the false packaging of the bill.”
The bishops’ conference does back the Pregnant Women Support Act, which has been viewed as a pro-life alternative to the Prevention First Act. “This is commonsense legislation that provides real help to women in need,” said McQuade. “Unlike the Prevention First Act, this bill provides tangible aid to women who are already pregnant, which will without a doubt lower the number of abortions nationwide.”
One of the most far-reaching assaults on the sanctity of human life that President Obama has pledged to support is the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). Under this piece of legislation, virtually all restrictions on abortion will be revoked, including parental notification and consent laws and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. FOCA also provides tax dollars to the industry, despite widespread opposition to government funding for abortions. While the legislation has yet to be reintroduced in the new session, lawmakers are anticipating its filing.
More than 100 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter urging Obama to reverse his support of FOCA. The Jan. 21 letter quoted Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago and president of the USCCB, in his plea to reject FOCA because of its “lethal consequences on prenatal human life.” Included in that group was Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio). “I believe the public is gearing up to fight this legislation,” said Schmidt. “My office has received hundreds of calls, e-mails and letters opposing this horrible legislation, and I am committed to do everything in my power to defeat FOCA.”
The USCCB is working to educate Catholics about FOCA through such efforts as the national postcard campaign urging Congress to reject the legislation. “While the radical agenda behind FOCA is being exposed, we must always be watchful,” said McQuade. “The goals of FOCA could still be passed in singularly less controversial and less visible bills.”
Experts say that under the new administration numerous pro-life efforts and protections are at risk, including:
• The Hyde Amendment, named for the late pro-life champion in the House of Representatives, Henry Hyde: If repealed, tax moneys would be used to fund abortion through Medicaid.
• The Hyde-Weldon Amendment: If reversed, health-care providers and facilities could be discriminated against for not being complicit with abortion.
• The reappropriation of tax moneys to Planned Parenthood: The nation’s largest abortion provider could receive millions more in tax dollars to operate its business.
• Funding the United Nations Population Fund: Americans would be forced to help underwrite the work of the UNFPA, despite its alleged ties to China’s forced-abortion policy.
“It is clear that we now have the most aggressively pro-abortion White House and Congress in history, both domestically and internationally,” said Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. “Pro-lifers must be on guard against all of these legislative attacks on human life and be prepared to move forward in prayer and action.”
Amber Dolle writes
from McKinney, Texas.
INFORMATION For more information, visit: USCCB.org/prolife/issues/FOCA Thomas.loc.gov
Life-Related Public Policy at Issue:
Mexico City Policy
U.S. foreign aid funds could not be used to perform or promote abortion. Ordered by President Reagan, reversed by President Clinton, reinstated by President Bush, then overturned by President Obama.
Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)
Signing this is one of President Obama’s highest priorities. FOCA would mean taxpayer-funded abortion, partial-birth and late-term abortions, the barring of laws protecting conscientious objection to abortion, and deny parental consent, among other things.
Prevention First Act
President Obama was an original cosponsor of this legislation. It would provide money to pro-abortion organizations and increase access to contraception. The U.S. bishops’ conference supports the Pregnant Women Support Act, which would give women practical resources.
Federal laws protecting the conscience rights of individuals and institutions were established by a December 2008 rule by the Department of Health and Human Services. President Bush supported these rights.