Reversing the Ban on Contraceptive Funds

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In the latest seesaw over the abortion debate, House Democrats managed to work into a foreign-aid bill an amendment that overturns the so-called Mexico City policy.

This policy, born in the Reagan era, bars the funding of contraceptives (or much of anything) for overseas NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) that provide or "promote" abortion. Pro-lifers need not worry. President Bush is sure to veto the bill if it gets to his desk in this form. And battle-weary Democrats aren't going to risk a shot at the White House next year over the abortion issue.

The sad thing about the Mexico City policy is that its implementation on the ground does more to harm the very people anti-choicers would like to help than it does to help them. In the late 1990s, I went to Morocco to report on a USAID-funded women's health clinic. Its offices housed the only doctors for hundreds of miles around. The clinic (which the religious right would have referred to as an abortion mill) did not provide abortions as that would have been illegal under Moroccan law.

Instead, the clinic was filled with pregnant women and their sick young children in desperate need of medical attention. Although labeled a women's health clinic because it did dispense birth control pills, it was in actuality the only pediatric care available to hundreds of thousands of impoverished Moroccan children. And the pro-life agenda was denying funding and care to these children in desperate need by cutting U.S. support for them.