Bush’s Reversal of ‘Mexico City Policy’ Was ‘Criminal’ Given HIV/AIDS Epidemic, Op-Ed Says
"In light of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, what President Bush did as soon as he got to the White House was criminal: He imposed the contentious abortion politics of one narrow domestic constituency upon millions of people in the world's poor countries," Salih Booker writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. Booker, executive director of the Africa Fund, the American Committee on Africa and the Africa Policy Information Center, three groups that are merging, writes that Bush's reinstatement of the "Mexico City policy," which restricts U.S. international family planning funds from going to organizations overseas that use their own funds to provide or promote abortion, "will only increase unsafe procedures and the spread of AIDS in poor countries." He adds that Bush's actions "will not reduce abortions because no federal funding supports them anyway." Booker writes that Bush's "true" intention behind the reinstatement was "to advance the agenda of the anti-choice fundamentalists who are among Bush's strongest supporters." Without U.S. funding, "[g]roups providing important health care assistance," such as contraceptives and family planning, "will lose funding," resulting in "a greater demand for abortions" and leading to an "increase in HIV/AIDS infections," Booker writes. He continues, "This callous policy approach to international public health care threatens the very cooperation between rich and poor nations and organizations that desperately needs strengthening if we are to address the major health challenges of the 21st century, especially AIDS."
'Anti-African in the Extreme'
Booker also criticizes Bush's initiation of a review of former President Clinton's executive order "that supports African countries' rights to import or produce cheaper generic versions of HIV/AIDS medications still under U.S. patent." Booker states that a reversal of the Clinton order "would be the equivalent of imposing the death penalty on 32.5 million people living with HIV in the developing world." These "first steps" of the Bush administration "lay bare what promise to be major determinants of U.S. policy on global issues under Republican rule: appeasement of the party's hard-line ideologues and the promotion of corporate America's enormous profits over human progress." Booker calls Bush's actions "anti-African in the extreme," in light of the continent's "unprecedented suffering and social destruction caused by the AIDS pandemic." Booker concludes, "There is only cowardice and arrogance in this first act by our new president" (Booker, Los Angeles Times, 2/9).