Getting the U.S. Out of Abortion

Steven Mosher
PRI Weekly Briefing
16 December 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 49
Reproduced with Permission

In another gift just in time for Christmas, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has imposed sanctions on two groups in Peru that used American tax money to promote the legalization of the morning-after pill (MAP) in that country. Each will have to return part of its grant as a punishment for violating USAID policy. In response to information and a complaint from PRI's Latin American Director Carlos Polo, USAID decided to penalize the groups. Peru's constitution protects life from conception on, and a Peruvian court has declared that MAP, as an abortion-inducing drug, cannot be sold there.

USAID grantees have been promoting abortion, including MAP, in many countries for a long time now. The federal government's Mexico City policy prohibits the use of federal money for the promotion of any changes in abortion laws overseas, but this provision of law is often circumvented. In any case, USAID follows FDA policy, which classifies MAP as "emergency contraception" rather than as an abortifacient, even though many of MAP's medical promoters acknowledge that it sometimes causes an abortion rather than prevents conception.

However, USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health Kent Hill wrote in a December 13 letter to Polo that it is USAID policy to remain neutral on what he calls "emergency contraceptive pills" (ECPs) in Peru because "this issue has proven particularly controversial" in that country. As Carlos Polo says, "The point is not what the U.S. government thinks about ECPs but Peruvians' laws and thinking." The two grantees from which USAID is seeking a so-far-unspecified amount of money are the Peruvian ombudsman's office, called Defensoria del Pueblo, and a major Peruvian feminist group, Mauela Ramos, which has received tens of millions of dollars in USAID funding.

The precedent set here is a big one. "We are the first organization to tell USAID about these activities with documented evidence and a strategy," Polo said. "During the last 20 years, I saw many complaints about USAID but no results. To the contrary, USAID officials saw pro-life groups as enemies denouncing USAID without much evidence."

Mauela Ramos produces a television program called "Women's Bar" that Hill found violated USAID policy by promoting MAP. "We have been fighting against Mauela Ramos and Defensoria for the last three years," Polo noted. "There have been a lot of 'Women's Bar' programs about MAP. The video we showed this time to USAID began with a phrase of the feminist moderator, 'I am tired of talking about this.'"

Polo hopes that this action by USAID will lead to more "respect for laws and customs of local people." Needless to say, pro-life people in Latin America and elsewhere do not receive a good impression of the United States when American government money is used to promote abortifacients in their countries.

The unfortunate reality is that in Peru, USAID was at the creation when it came to population control. "USAID funded the beginning of 'family planning,' now 'reproductive health,' programs as companies gave samples to promote their products," Polo explained. "They said it was international cooperation, but we now see clearly it was a business. Because now we Peruvians have to pay for the programs and contraceptives. And we will have to pay the consequences -- aging people, scarcity of young people and workers, problems with women's health, etc."

Pro-life groups in other countries should monitor the activities of U.S.-funded feminist and environmentalist organizations. If these groups promote the morning-after pill or other forms of abortion, they should document the activity and submit the evidence along with a complaint to USAID. We'd be happy to help. In the meantime, we thank USAID for taking this action and hope other grantees will take serious notice. If you use U.S. funds to promote abortion or changes in local laws protecting life, you may have to give the money back.