More Than 130 AIDS, Family Planning Groups Sign Letter To Bush Denouncing Use of ‘Mexico City’ Policy in New AIDS Initiative
More than 130 nongovernmental organizations on Feb. 26 sent a letter to President Bush asking him to abandon plans to make organizations that wish to receive federal AIDS funding comply with the so-called "Mexico City" policy, which prohibits federal aid from going to groups that fund or promote abortion, the Washington Times reports (Carter, Washington Times, 3/3). In the letter, the groups cite the WHO Global Sector Strategy for HIV/AIDS, which says that existing family planning programs "provide a clear entry point for the delivery of HIV/AIDS interventions." The groups state that integrated family planning and AIDS counseling programs are the "best approach to improving public health" and provide "a source of information and resources free from the stigma frequently associated with stand-alone HIV prevention programs." The letter calls on Bush to "eliminate barriers to effective programs not erect new ones" (Letter text, 2/26). 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 on the first day of 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 Reproductive Health Report, 2/26). Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs, last week at a forum on AIDS in Africa at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, "Can anyone apply? Yes. They can apply [for funding] even if they are noncompliant with Mexico City. The money is intended for programs relevant to HIV. They cannot use the money for abortion-related activities." However, many groups argue that it is impossible to "compartmentalize" HIV/AIDS counseling from reproductive health counseling, according to the Times (Washington Times, 3/3).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Friday reported on the Bush administration's application of the Mexico City policy to HIV/AIDS funding. The segment includes comments from Jodi Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, and Connie Mackey, executive director for government affairs at the Family Research Council (Wilson, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/28). The full segment is available in RealPlayer online.