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President expands executive ban on funds that would go to international abortion groups

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush has expanded a White House policy that prohibits federal funds from going to international organizations that perform abortions or lobby foreign governments to liberalize their abortion laws.

The president issued a memorandum Aug. 29 that requires all State Department funding for population planning to be governed by what is known as the Mexico City policy. The decision expanded a 2001 order by Bush that restricts family planning funds through the U.S. Agency for International Development. The State Department grants population-planning funds not only through USAID but through other channels as well.

The memo provided another example that Bush “is strongly and emphatically a pro-life president and the friend of the unborn everywhere in the world,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This president is pro-life by deep and profound conviction, and all pro-life Americans should be deeply grateful for this president and this action.”

President Reagan first established the restriction on USAID family planning funds for foreign, nongovernmental organizations in 1984. It was announced at a population conference in Mexico City that year. President Clinton rescinded the policy after he became president in 1993, but Bush re-instituted it about two months after he entered the White House.

Abortion rights organizations, including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-choice America, criticized Bush for his action.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life and pro-family organizations, however, did not gain support for a policy for which they had lobbied the White House. In his order, the president said the policy does not cover funds provided under the recently enacted global AIDS bill. Pro-life and pro-family groups had asked the administration to prohibit any funds under the AIDS bill from going to organizations that support abortion.

The AIDS law authorized $15 billion in United States aid during the next five years to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in countries devastated by the disease in Africa and the Caribbean. It included two pro-family elements promoted by the ERLC and others — at least one-third of the funding is to go for abstinence-based programs, and there is a conscience clause protecting faith-based groups from being required to distribute condoms in order to receive aid.

Bush’s memo came at the end of a week in which it was announced the White House had revoked AIDS funding to a British organization because of its work with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The State Department ruled Marie Stoopes International cooperates with the UNFPA in supporting China’s coercive population control program.

Under a federal policy known as the Kemp-Kasten amendment, U.S. family planning funds are not permitted to go to organizations that cooperate with China’s program, which includes forced abortion and sterilization. Last year, the Bush administration refused to release $34 million approved by Congress for the UNFPA.