Abortion Cutoff

Article excerpt

For six years, as population pressures fueled poverty and despair, millions of women in developing countries have been held hostage to U.S. abortion politics. Yet the international dimensions of U.S. policy


The first World Population Conference, held in 1974, led to an international consensus, strongly supported by the United States, on the link between poverty and overpopulation. In the ensuing decade, government and private family planning programs provided health care and contraceptive advice to millions of women around the world. However, at the second conference, held in Mexico City in 1984, the United States reversed its position, arguing that population growth was a "neutral phenomenon" and that a free-market economy was the solution. In an election-year concession to powerful U.S. antiabortion forces, the so-called Mexico City Policy blocked U.S. assistance to any private foreign clinic that provides abortion services - counseling, referral or education. Actually, no recipient country has ever used U.S. grants to fund abortions. But under the Mexico City Policy any private clinic that turns to alternative funding sources or directs its clients to a government agency faces a cutoff of U.S. aid.

In countries such as Turkey, Bangladesh and India, where overpopulation crises spurred the legalization of abortion, local organizations have been defunded for failure to comply with U.S. regulations. In recent testimony before the House subcommittee on International Operations, Turkiz Gokgol, country representative of The Pathfinder Fund, a U.S.-based family-planning group, described how U.S. policy prevents health care providers from answering a pregnant woman's questions about abortion. Since abortion is legal in Turkey, this puts the health care worker in a position that is unlawful and professionally unethical," he explained. Threats to withhold funds that would provide thousands of patients with preventive contraceptive care unless the provider surrendres his or her medical oath is not an imposition, it is blackmail."

In 1985 the London-based International Planned Parenthood Federation was forced to cut back projects in the Third World. …