Exporting Abortion And The Ugly American

Steven Mosher
PRI Weekly Briefing
23 January 2009
Vol. 11 / No. 03
Reproduced with Permission

If you're old enough, you may remember the 1958 novel called The Ugly American. Or perhaps you saw the 1963 movie by the same name, starring Marlon Brando. The "uglies" in the novel were arrogant and ignorant American aid workers who ran roughshod over local values and institutions. The phrase remains in current usage, referring to almost any loud, boorish American traveling abroad and insisting on having his own way.

I read the book as a boy. It was one of the reasons why, as an anthropologist at Stanford University, I later made a point of scrupulously observing local customs and respecting local laws. Most Americans quite naturally do the same when traveling abroad.

One would think that a self-proclaimed "citizen of the world" would agree, but President Obama seems determined to unleash a whole phalanx of Ugly Americans on the world. I say this because he intends to fund, using your tax dollars and mine, international organizations that willfully violate the laws of most countries around the globe, not to mention the values of all the world's major religions, by violating the sanctity of Life.

I am talking about his Executive Order, expected in the next few days, overturning the Mexico City Policy.

The Mexico City Policy was first adopted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 at a population conference in Mexico City. It was intended to get the U.S. out of the international abortion business. Under the policy, international organizations that perform, promote, or lobby for the legalization of abortion are ineligible for U.S. population control/family planning funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The idea behind the Mexico City Policy is that abortion is always and everywhere a controversial act. Most Americans object to having their tax dollars used to fund it. Most countries severely restrict the act of abortion, if they do not ban it altogether. For American-funded organizations to be pushing abortions overseas reflects badly on our country and on us, and harms vulnerable women in the developing world.

President Bill Clinton lifted the ban in January 1993 as one of his first acts as president, but President George W. Bush reinstated it in his first executive order on January 22, 2001, the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Now Obama is poised to undo Bush's order and repeat Clinton's mistake.

The primary beneficiaries of this change will be the pro-abortion zealots of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Once their coffers are fattened by a generous USAID grant, IPPF employees will fan out over the world: They will promote abortion where it is legal, lobby for its legalization where it is not, and perform as many abortions as possible, most in defiance of local laws.

One hundred and ten countries around the world ban all abortions, or allow them under very restricted circumstances. The constitutions of a dozen Latin American countries, for example, define life as beginning at conception, and protect the unborn from that point forward.

Respecting neither national sovereignty nor the popular will, the IPPF and like-minded organizations are determined to change all that. They denigrate the unborn as less than human. They seek to deny it the protection of the state. They perform illegal abortions by the tens of thousands. How's that for cultural imperialism?

The abortion movement characterizes the Mexico City policy as the "global gag rule." Why? Because under the policy, in order to receive USAID funding, organizations have to promise not to violate the pro-life laws of the countries they operate in by performing illegal abortions. They also have to promise not to undermine the democratic process by lobbying for the legalization of abortion.

For the abortion true believer, who is convinced he is helping women by aborting their children (not to mention protecting the environment and solving the overpopulation problem) such restrictions are intolerable. They see abortion as a great good.

Of course, they know that most people don't agree with them, and so they don't argue the point outright. Instead, they resort to subterfuge. They claim, as the organization Engenderhealth does, that "The Global Gag Rule has had terrible consequences for the health and lives of poor women and their families, in ways that have nothing to do with abortion. The Global Gag Rule has forced clinics to cut back on all sorts of health services, such as family planning, obstetric care, HIV testing, and malaria treatment."

This, of course, is so much horse manure. The organizations which refuse to abide by the Mexico City policy are not interested in "family planning, obstetric care, HIV testing, and malaria treatment." Rather, their priority is the promotion and performance of abortions. If this were not so they would simply comply with the policy, eschew abortion, and receive funding.

The Mexico City Policy itself has not restricted foreign aid for family planning. Instead, it has simply ensured that family planning funds are not used for abortions. As Cardinal George recently wrote to President Obama, "Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased, the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size."

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Obama released a statement about wanting to "reduce the need for abortion." When he overturns the Mexico City Policy, however, he will be increasing them around the world.

And we will all be Ugly Americans.