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The Mexico City Policy Reversal and United Methodist Reaction

by Mark P. Smith

The Mexico City Policy Reversal and United Methodist Reaction

President Barack Obama’s rescinding of the Mexico City Policy, which banned U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding abortions in overseas non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has caused quite a reaction in both the pro-life and pro-choice communities.  Linda Bales, director of the Louise & Hugh Moore Population Project at of the UM General Board of Church and Society has written pointedly against the policy and is now praising the Obama reversal (see GBCS’ Faith In Action newsletter for Feb. 2, 2009 — http://tinyurl.com/gbcs-abortion-advocacy/ ).

Among Ms. Bales’ longstanding criticisms is that the Mexico City Policy, in her view, unfairly restricts funding to an NGO that offers reproductive services even if that NGO pays for abortions “with its own money.” But this would seem to be a distinction without a difference.  If financial aid is given to an organization that performs abortions, then that money is essentially underwriting abortions, regardless of any accounting gymnastics that may be offered as a legitimizing factor. If the GBCS had worked harder to uncouple abortion from “reproductive services” then perhaps her concerns could have been lessened. 

As a consequence of the Mexico City reversal, U.S. taxpayer funding has also been restored to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  In applauding this development Ms. Bales stated flatly that “The UNFPA does not provide abortion services as some of its critics have charged.”

The veracity of that statement is questioned by a well-documented 2001 study, recorded in Congressional testimony, by the pro-life Population Research Institute (PRI).  An on-site PRI investigation in Sihui County, China, found that the UNFPA worked in support of Chinese reproductive policies, which included both mandatory abortion and sterilization as family planning strategies. Official policy of the United Methodist Church rejects abortion as a method of family planning.

On more than one occasion Ms. Bales has maintained that a “double standard” has existed with respect to U.S. domestic policy not being subject to Mexico City restrictions. Using such logic one might conclude that it’s a double standard for U.S. citizens to be covered by Medicare but not Canadians!  One could reasonably argue that, especially in economically difficult times, hard-earned taxpayer money should not be sent overseas for reproductive services, and if sent at all it should certainly not fund procedures (such as abortion) which many taxpayers find morally objectionable.

Current domestic U.S. law, with some variation depending upon the state, forbids taxpayer funding of medically unnecessary abortions. With the lifting of the Mexico City Policy one could argue that there are now fewer restrictions on U.S. abortion funding internationally than domestically! I wonder if this would meet Ms. Bales’ criteria for a “double standard.”  

It is also worth considering that most of the developing world has abortion laws that are stricter than those of the United States. Sending U.S. money to abortion-advocacy groups working to make foreign abortion laws more like those in America is—in the words of a spokesman for C-FAM, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Initiative—“the worst kind of cultural imperialism.”  

Mark P. Smith, Pine Mountain, Georgia

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