Bush Administration To Withdraw Support From Global Health Council Conference
The Bush administration has announced that it is withdrawing support of the Global Health Council's "Youth and Health: Generation on the Edge" conference, which is expected to include representatives of several groups that have been critical of the administration's policies on reproductive health and AIDS education, the Washington Times reports (Hurt, Washington Times, 4/26). GHC listed USAID, CDC, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as top financial donors in a recent conference brochure (Bolton, The Hill, 4/22). GHC has received funding from the federal government for the conference for 30 years (Connolly, Washington Post, 4/27). Lynnette Johnson Williams, GHC director of media relations, said that the council has been in negotiations with the government agencies about the conference since fall 2003 (The Hill, 4/22). HHS, of which CDC and HRSA are a part, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the conference over the past few years and had planned to contribute $170,000 to this year's conference, HHS spokesperson Bill Pierce said (Washington Post, 4/27). USAID so far had committed about $190,000 to the conference, according to a government source (Washington Times, 4/26). Representatives from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the United Nations Population Fund and the Alan Guttmacher Institute -- each of which has opposed the administration's positions on reproductive health and its endorsement of abstinence over condom use -- are expected to attend the conference, scheduled for June 1 through June 4 in Washington, D.C., according to The Hill (The Hill, 4/22). In addition, GHC had invited representatives of MoveOn.org, which has been critical of the Bush administration, to discuss the use of technology in grassroots organizing, but the organization declined to attend, according to GHC Vice President James Sherry (Washington Post, 4/27).
Conservative lawmakers and others last week expressed concern about government funding for the conference, The Hill reports. "All of [the organizations] are opposed to the principles announced by this administration when it comes to HIV prevention. They are the same organizations that opposed groups like ours on the Africa AIDS bill," Michael Schwartz, vice president of government relations for the antiabortion conservative advocacy group Concerned Women for America, said (The Hill, 4/22). The Traditional Values Coalition, the American Life League's STOPP International and Focus on the Family also lobbied against federal government funding for the conference, TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty said, the Post reports. She added, "Obviously this conference does not reflect the administration policies" (Washington Post, 4/27). "The conference has increasingly moved from a teaching forum to a platform for expressing partisan political views," the unnamed senior government official said (Washington Times, 4/26). However, Johnson Williams said that critics failed to mention the "balance in every session of [the] conference," which will include "more than 2,000 ... participants from all over the world," including the Catholic Medical Mission Board (The Hill, 4/22). "As a matter of principle, whenever and wherever there have been differences on views on a particular subject area, our conference organizers have made every effort to insure that a full range of technical viewpoints are included," GHC President and CEO Nils Daulaire said, adding, "This year is no exception" (GHC release, 4/26).
Lobbying, Funding Concerns
Conservative lawmakers also expressed concern about the conference's scheduled "Advocacy Day," during which participants can go to Capitol Hill to lobby Senate and congressional offices, the Times reports. "A large portion of this conference is devoted to lobbying, and government appropriations are not allowed to be used for lobbyist activities," the unnamed government official said, according to the Times. "After careful review, we determined that we were not going to fund this conference due to concerns we had about federal funds being used for lobby purposes," Pierce said. He added that the decision had been made before conservative groups called HHS and USAID to express concern about the funding, the Times reports (Washington Times, 4/26). However, Daulaire said that the conference is financed through participant registration fees that are supplemented by both public and private sector grants, adding that no federal funds are used to support lobbying activities (GHC release, 4/26). Pierce also said that the Bush administration has "concerns that [GHC] used our name and logo in their brochures without our approval or authorization because we had not officially committed funds" (Washington Times, 4/26).