Global Vigilantism

The U.S. Agency for International Development is implementing rigorously its new anti-abortion guidelines on population assistance, setting something of a bureaucratic record for counterproductive activity. Impoverished foreign governments and agencies are being bullied for doing what is entirely legal and acceptable within the United States.

The latest to fall victim of the AID effort is the United Nations Fund for Population Activities. Press reports, otherwise not identified, have led AID Administrator M. Peter McPherson to suspect that some of the U.N. fund's money may be finding its way into programs in China that may "support or reinforce" coercive population activities. An investigation has been ordered. McPherson is now weighing the possibility of dispatching a mission to China to do his own audit. If his suspicions turn out to be grounded in fact, the United States may cancel its entire $46-million contribution to the population fund. That would be in defiance of the congressional appropriations that earmarked the money for the fund without the conditions that are now being imposed.

Once again money for an entire organization is in jeopardy because a related organization is suspected of abortion-related activities that neither involve U.S. funds nor violate American law. Application of the rule already has denied the International Planned Parenthood Federation about $11.5 million in cash and $2.5 million in contraceptives this year. Some of that money may now be fed to the same recipients as originally intended, including planned-parenthood affiliates in Africa, but it will be done through other private organizations rather than through planned parenthood. That possibility dramatizes the absurdity of such clumsy rule-making, because no other organization can bring the expertise, efficiency and effectiveness of planned parenthood to that particular work.

AID is also enforcing its anti-abortion rules through a new clause being inserted into foreign-aid agreements. Negotiations are under way with Egypt and Haiti. Each recipient is required to pledge that it is not engaged in any counseling regarding abortion, even when the physical or mental health of the mother is involved. There is one exception: If the pregnancy thratens the mother's life, an agency can advise her to seek an abortion without the loss of the agency's eligibility for American government help.

This global pursuit of the campaign against abortion is a form of vigilantism, for it goes beyond the laws adopted by Congress that make perfectly clear that U.S. funds are not to be used for abortions. There have been no reports of violations of that law.

The $46 million U.S. contribution to the U.N. population fund represents almost 16% of the AID population program this year. The total commitment is $290 million, up from $250 million last year. Almost half the money is spent through private voluntary organizations.

The increased level of aid recognizes the terrible consequences of the present global population growth. But the effectiveness of the American program is being jeopardized by the intrusion of an aggressive policy program seeking to use the American dollars to force other nations and foreign agencies to adopt rules that are not accepted in the United States itself.

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