Politics & Policy

This Mexican Policy Is a Keeper

Pelosi's House would export abortion as aid.

Rudy Giuliani clearly had no idea what he was talking about. When conservative radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham explained what the Mexico City Policy is, he eventually said he’d be for it.

He wasn’t persuasive.

Rudy Giuliani, formerly pro-choice Mitt Romney, largely unknown Fred Thompson, and the rest of the field may soon have the opportunity to make as clear as a margarita glass their position on the Reagan-era policy: The issue hits the floor of the House of Representatives once again this week, as the body debates the State Department/Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

The Mexico City Policy prohibits U.S. taxpayer funding of international-aid organizations that use abortion as a method of birth control. It is named for the location of the United Nations population conference in 1984 where it was announced. According to the final language out of the United Nations International Conference on Population in Mexico City: “Governments are urged . . . to take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning, and whenever possible, provide for the humane treatment and counseling of women who have had recourse to abortion.” This was U.S. policy until the Clinton administration rescinded it by executive order in 1993; George W. Bush reinstated the policy the day he was inaugurated in 2001.

The National Right to Life Committee sent out an advisory on Wednesday explaining a key issue facing the appropriations bill: “The Smith-Stupak Amendment would remove language inserted in the bill in committee by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) that would overturn President Bush’s pro-life ‘Mexico City Policy.’ Although Rep. Lowey claims that her language would not require cash grants to abortion-promoting groups — a claim that some journalists have unskeptically adopted — the actual legislative language, found on page 97 of the bill, says something quite different: It says that no contract or grant to an organization may be denied, on grounds that the organization promotes abortion as a method of family planning, if the organization simply ‘includes’ contraception in the grant request.”

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List sponsored a rally on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, attended by Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen , freshman Republican Mary Fallin of Oklahoma City, and other pro-life women who are members of Congress. The participants explained that the absence of the Mexico City Policy would mean the U.S. would be “export[ing] abortion” to some of the most vulnerable women the world over–imposing our own Roe-era abortion reality on other nations, some of them pro-life countries. (At that 1984 conference, by the way, we were opposed by the one-child-allowed Chinese.)

According to Marilyn Musgrave , Republican congresswoman from Colorado, the Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) — Chris Smith (R., N.J.) amendment to fix the bill back to What Reagan Would Do “will protect the lives of women and children around the world.”

On Wednesday, President George W. Bush vetoed an attempt by the Pelosi-Reid Congress to gut one of his pro-life policies — his ban on the federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research. With Mexico City on the border of not being preserved by the new Congress in town, he’s not putting the veto pen away. Earlier this week, the administration issued a statement warning the Speaker on the current approps language: “The Administration strongly opposes this legislation, because it includes provisions that are inconsistent with the Administration’s international family planning policy. Consistent with the President’s letter of May 3, 2007, if the President were presented a bill, such as H.R. 2764, that weakens current Federal policies and laws on abortion, he would veto the bill.”

At the Wednesday rally, 2008 was in the air on the Cannon House Office Building terrace. When asked, Congresswoman Musgrave said that “it is critical that we have a friend in the White House on this. . . . It just means everything to us.” Looking ahead, Musgrave said, not knowing who could be in control next session — and knowing that there are members of the congressional leadership who want to gut this policy — makes the White House’s position crucial.

Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser added that support for repealing the Mexico City Policy “will work against candidates.”

For a Rudy Giuliani, who says he “hates abortion,” this policy forbidding the export of abortion-as-a-method-of-birth-control to poor women should be easy to support. (For a candidate who says he is Catholic, the opposition of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to this threat to the Mexico City Policy should provide further guidance, in case he needs it.)

A candidate who comes out in full support of the Stupak-Smith amendment, and the continuation of the Mexico City Policy under this and his administration, may prove to be a lifesaver in more ways than one.

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