Letter to Congress on the Mexico City Policy
April 18, 2001
Dear Member of Congress:
"The poor cry out for justice and equality and we respond with legalized abortion." Thus wrote dissenting commissioner Grace Olivarez, when the Rockefeller Commission on Population and the American Future proposed almost two decades ago that abortion be used to control population and reduce poverty in the United States.
That the mindset of the Rockefeller Commission majority still lives among us is apparent from some reactions to the reinstatement of the "Mexico City Policy" governing U.S. population assistance. Abortion advocacy groups have reacted with outrage, claiming to speak for the women of developing nations who allegedly want help in aborting their children more than any other form of foreign aid.
Because President Bush does not believe the U.S. government should subsidize organizations that promote and perform abortions in the Third World, he is accused of seeking to "hurt the women of the world" [Congressional Record, Feb. 15, 2001, page S1506]. This charge is made by the sponsors of S. 367, a bill designed to rescind the Mexico City policy and give free rein to U.S.-funded organizations to promote abortion abroad.
Under S. 367 and its companion bill, H.R. 755, non-governmental organizations could attack human life and human dignity and continue to receive U.S. funds, so long as their practices could not be shown to violate the host country's law or U.S. federal law. Population control groups could again distribute abortion kits in nations where abortion is illegal, evading local laws by calling them "menstrual regulation" kits and neglecting to perform pregnancy tests before performing abortions. They could even perform abortions and other "health or medical services" that endanger women, since such abuses may not be adequately addressed by host countries' laws and are seldom addressed by federal law in the U.S. In recent cases in this country involving women's injury or death at the hands of those performing supposedly legal abortions, redress has been entirely through state law. It is tragically ironic that legislation ostensibly designed to prevent "unsafe" abortion may give U.S.-funded organizations new leeway to practice exactly that.
In our view, the Mexico City policy respects the dignity of poor women in developing nations, as well as the laws and cultures of the vast majority of nations, far better than such gravely misguided legislation does. The President has rightly removed the United States from the business of exporting a culture of death.
As the U.S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities testified in 1989, the Mexico City policy is needed because the agenda of many organizations receiving U.S. population aid has been to "promote abortion as an integral part of family planning – even in developing nations where abortion is against the law. . . Far from being perceived as an imposition on developing nations, the United States policy against funding abortion activity has been greeted by those nations as a welcome reform. The vast majority of these countries have legal policies against abortion, and virtually all forbid the use of abortion as merely another birth control method."
When President Bush reinstated the Mexico City Policy this year, some complained that the policy amounts to "powerful" politicians forcing their policies on powerless women. But as we have learned from our experience in international conferences on population, the promotion of permissive abortion attitudes is much more likely to cause resentment, especially when it is perceived as a means by which the West is attempting to impose population control policies on developing nations as conditions for development assistance.
Poor women in developing nations are not calling for help to abort their children. They are calling for education, food, housing, and medicine for themselves and their children so that they can lead lives of full human dignity. The United States can best respond to their pleas by holding firm to the Mexico City Policy, while increasing true development aid from its scandalous level of one-tenth of one percent of GNP, the lowest percentage of all major donor countries. I urge you to reject S. 367 and H.R. 755, and to uphold the Mexico City policy.
Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities
National Conference of Catholic Bishops