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Mexico City Policy: A Crucial Case For Pro-Lifers

BY Helen AlvarÈ

May 3-9, 1998 Issue | Posted 5/3/98 at 2:00 PM

 

If you wanted to fund a campaign to stop prostitution in foreign countries, and a brothel insisted on receiving funding, would you give it to them? Would you give it to them if they swore on their hearts and hoped to die that they would never ever co—mingle one tiny penny of your money with their own monies? Their own monies that were being used in part to lobby foreign governments to legalize prostitution?

I don't think so.

Then why should the United States give money for “family planning” to international organizations that specialize in activities that increase out—of—wedlock pregnancies and abortion?

Planned Parenthood and other groups provide both contraception and abortion in countries overseas. Even in some countries where abortion is illegal. Many also actively lobby to overturn foreign laws that restrict abortion. But they loudly claim that they must receive U.S. family planning funds in order to reduce the number of out—of—wedlock pregnancies and abortions overseas. They claim that since U.S. law already prohibits them from using the money to actually perform abortions, that U.S. money would not at all be tied in with abortions. They also claim that they will keep U.S. monies, and monies used to lobby for or perform abortions, completely separate from each other.

At least on paper.

But, in fact, studies show that promoting abortion in any society produces an increase in the number of out—of—wedlock pregnancies. As Planned Parenthood's own research affiliate, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, wrote in 1986: “Greater availability of abortion is associated with higher pregnancy rates.” The Alan Guttmacher Institute also acknowledges that some of the surest ways to increase the number of abortions in any population are to do precisely the things that Planned Parenthood and others intend to do internationally: make abortion laws permissive, and make abortions more readily available. The Alan Guttmacher Institute's annual review of international abortion trends regularly concludes that after permissive abortion laws are introduced, numbers of abortions increase, sometimes dramatically.

In short, if you want to reduce both unintended pregnancies and abortions, the one thing you never want to do is to subsidize groups that promote or provide abortion in their family planning programs.

The one thing you never want to do is to subsidize groups that promote or provide abortion in their family planning programs.

So how dumb do Planned Parenthood and others think we are? Paper separations of funds won't prevent for an instant the kinds of abortion fallout described above. Any teenager with two incomes—from baby—sitting and a fast food job, for exam—ple—knows that more money from any source allows you to do things you wouldn't otherwise be able to do! None other than The New York Times (a strong abortion—rights supporter) reported plainly that: “[A]ny government financing for Planned Parenthood's family planning services indirectly subsidizes abortion” (April 9, 1996).

Not to mention, of course, the shame of having U.S.—funded organizations working to overturn or even violate the law of foreign countries. (No matter that Secretary of State Madeline Albright tries to put a pretty face on the former activity, calling it: “exercising the same democratic rights they have in the United States"). The International Planned Parenthood Federation has written policy recommendations to affiliates stating that “action outside the law, and even in violation of it, is part of the process of stimulating change” when it comes to abortion law. (Report of the Working Group on the Promotion of Family Planning as A Basic Human Right, International Planned Parenthood Federation, November, 1983).

So how do we prevent this? Federally, the answer lies in the enactment of the Mexico City policy, named after the 1984 U.N. conference at which rich and poor nations together agreed that abortion should never be used as a method of family planning. For years after 1984, Congress successfully appropriated monies for international family planning going only to agencies who also do not perform or promote abortions.

This year, a variation of that policy is before Congress and the president. It would forbid funding organizations who violate or lobby against foreign abortion laws. (Those who perform abortions legal in the host country could still receive the money if the president waives the restriction). Amazingly enough, President Clinton opposes this policy—to the point that he is willing to sacrifice some other dearly held legislative aims that Congress has tied to the passage of the Mexico City policy. The president and other staunch abortion advocates feel strongly that U.S. monies should flow to groups deliberately disrupting the legal, cultural, and religious values of the sovereign nations who host them.

It is tempting to “turn off” a subject that can involve overseas aid or that seems so legally complicated. But this is really too important a subject for that. The bottom line is this: either the world's largest abortion providers and promoters get your tax dollars to create more abortion and unwed pregnancy overseas or they don't. Please let your federal representatives know that you're keeping an eye on this one.

Helen Alvaré is director of planning and information, Secretariat for Pro—Life Activities, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.