Lawmakers Ask Bush Administration To Abandon ‘Mexico City’ Policy for International AIDS Programs in Letter to Secretary Powell
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), along with 19 other members of Congress, on Friday sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell calling for the Bush administration to "abando[n]" plans to extend the so-called "Mexico City" policy to HIV/AIDS funding under its five-year, $15 billion global HIV/AIDS initiative announced during Bush's State of the Union address (Abercrombie release, 2/24). The policy -- which was originally implemented by President Reagan at a population conference in Mexico City in 1984, removed by President Clinton and reinstated by Bush just days into his presidency -- "bars U.S. money from international groups that support abortion, even with their own money, through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities." Under the new policy, outlined by a senior Bush administration official in a memo to the State Department, social services groups that deal with abortion services would have to "administer AIDS programs separately from family planning" in order to receive funds from the administration's new AIDS initiative (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/24).
The letter states that the administration's application of the Mexico City policy to international HIV/AIDS programs, "either through legislation or by executive order, would be a very grave and costly mistake." The president's pledge to provide $10 billion in new funding for HIV/AIDS programs in Africa and the Caribbean "represented in many ways, a giant step forward in our nation's response to the AIDS pandemic," the letter states, adding that "it is extremely critical that we avoid taking two giant steps backwards by attaching Mexico City language to this initiative." The letter continues, "Such a policy will not only contrast sharply with existing international practices but will also make authorization of a comprehensive global AIDS bill in Congress a difficult proposition, and will further complicate the consideration of the fiscal year 2004 Foreign Operations bill -- thus delaying the rapid disbursement of these much needed funds." The letter concludes, "Our international AIDS policy cannot be subverted in order to satisfy the qualms of any group with specific concerns over a single policy issue that has little relevance for other countries. We respectfully ask that you oppose any such attempt to attach the Mexico City policy to the implementation of our global AIDS programs" (Abercrombie release, 2/24). The other signatories include Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.); Joe Hoeffel (D-Pa.); Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas); Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.); Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.); Elijah Cummings (D-Md.); Donald Payne (D-N.J.); Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.); Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.); Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.); Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.); Frank Pallone (D-N.J.); Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.); Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.); Fortney Stark (D-Calif.); Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.); William Pascrell (D-N.J.); Howard Berman (D-Calif.); and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).