Bush Executive Order Limits State Dept. Funding To International Groups That Provide Abortion Services; Exempts AIDS-Related Work
President Bush on Friday issued an executive order that prevents the State Department from giving family planning grants to international groups that provide abortion-related counseling, although he exempted groups in Africa and the Caribbean that could receive funding through the global AIDS initiative, the Los Angeles Times reports. The new policy is an expansion of an executive order Bush issued in 2001 that restricts the U.S. Agency for International Development from providing aid to international organizations that use their own funds to provide abortions or abortion counseling or to lobby foreign governments on abortion policy (Chen, Los Angeles Times, 8/30). The so-called "Mexico City" policy -- which was originally implemented by President Reagan at a population conference in Mexico City in 1984, removed by President Clinton and reinstated by President 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" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/9). Bush said that he is expanding the 2001 order "because family planning grants are awarded by the Department of State outside of USAID, as well as through USAID." According to the Times, Bush believes that U.S. taxpayer money should not be used to provide financial assistance to international groups that provide abortion-related services (Los Angeles Times, 8/30).
The order exempts agencies that operate in Africa and the Caribbean that may receive funding through Bush's five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative, the AP/Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 8/30). Bush said that even if such groups promoted family planning or provided abortion services, they could still receive funds under the initiative if they used them to treat people with HIV/AIDS. An overall ban on funding to organizations involved in the fight against AIDS would have been counterproductive to the "high-profile" initiative, unnamed administration officials said, according to the Times. An anonymous U.S. official said that Bush's new order would affect "only a small number of programs and was issued to keep policy consistent across the government," the Times reports. However, David Seldin, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that the new order is "clearly yet another sign" of the administration "putting the absolute commitment to ideological purity ahead of programs that can prevent literally millions of unintended pregnancies" (Los Angeles Times, 8/30). Terri Bartlett, vice president of Population Action International, said, "At this time, the face of HIV/AIDS in Africa is a young woman, and family planning services are integral."
Marie Stopes International Connection
Some critics of Bush's latest order said that it is a "byproduct" of the State Department's recent decision to end funding for an HIV/AIDS program for African and Asian refugees, the AP/Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 8/30). The State Department last week announced that it is discontinuing funding for the program because of concerns that Marie Stopes International -- which provides family planning counseling and abortion services and is one of the seven groups that runs the program -- supports forced abortions and involuntary sterilization in China. Although State Department officials said they have no evidence that MSI is involved in forced abortions and sterilizations, they expressed concern that the group works as a partner in China with the United Nations Population Fund. The Bush administration in July 2002 decided to permanently withhold UNFPA funding -- withdrawing $34 million in financing for that year -- stating that the organization "tacitly perpetuates a 'one-child' policy in China that has led to abortions and sterilizations against women's will." A State Department fact-finding team in May 2002 issued a report in which they stated that there was no evidence that UNFPA funds were being used for coercive practices in China. However, the administration rejected the report's findings, stating that China "coerces women to have abortions by charging them a prohibitive 'social compensation fee' for having children without permission." An unnamed State Department official said that although the group's program in China aims to reduce the number of abortions there, "the fact that they're tied in with the government management program is what triggered the concern. This wasn't an ideological decision; it was a legal decision" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/27).