HOUSE REPUBLICANS who claim to be ardently opposed to abortions instead seem intent on increasing them worldwide. That would be the effect of a gag rule they seek to impose on U.S. aid to family planning programs.
Two years ago, their no-compromise approach helped shut down the federal government, even while they insisted their opposition was to abortion, not to the family planning programs that decrease demand for abortions. This year they are working their mischief again, holding up accord on a foreign aid bill. But this time around their motives are openly in doubt.
In September, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, proposed eliminating all U.S. funds for international family planning programs. The amendment was easily defeated, but it drew support from a suspiciously high number of representatives who claim their concern centers only on abortion, not on family planning activities.
It's hard to take them at their word when they say the crippling restrictions are meant only to underscore that no U.S. funds can be used in any way to support abortion activities. After all, it has long been illegal to use U.S. aid funds for abortion services. And audit after audit has failed to find any violations of the ban.
In many countries receiving U.S. family planning aid, abortion is illegal. Yet the "global gag rule" could forbid even efforts to do something about the large numbers of illegal, unsafe abortions that kill and maim women every year. It would deny U.S. aid to any family planning program that uses funds from any source for abortions or engages in discussions of whether it should be legal under any circumstances. A similar provision was in force by executive order during the Reagan and Bush years, but there is no evidence it produced any substantial reduction in abortions.
Research in countries like Russia, Hungary and South Korea show that higher levels of contraceptive use produce lower abortion rates. So it would seem that anyone seeking to decrease abortions would support family planning services that make contraceptives available.
Not so. On Capitol Hill, the politicians protesting abortions the loudest are doing the most to increase abortions worldwide. Maybe they think that's good politics, but for too many families around the world it is deadly policy.
Pub Date: 11/05/97