Blinded by Ideology

A new report by Planned Parenthood and Population Action International states that many health-care clinics in poor countries are closing-and that it's all the fault of the so-called "Christian right" and its "extreme social agenda." You may remember that one of President Bush's first acts in office was to reinstate the "Mexico City" policy -- referred to in the new report as "the global gag rule." This policy cut off U.S. financial aid to overseas organizations that perform abortions or promote them in any way. Planned Parenthood now says it "would not compromise women's lives by agreeing to this unwise and unethical policy and refused [therefore] to comply with the gag rule." So now its overseas clinics are closing because of lack of funds. Along with the loss of family planning services, they say, this means that clinics will no longer be working to help prevent and treat AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. According to family planning groups and their advocates, the United States is pushing a right-wing agenda at the risk of women's health. For instance, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times complains, "The doctors and nurses in these clinics are fighting AIDS, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and genital mutilation of girls, and instead of being hailed as heroes, they're denigrated and stripped of funds by White House ideologues who don't know what an African slum is." We don't deny that doctors and nurses at these family planning clinics have done good work for the people they serve. And we don't deny that they care deeply about those in need. But come on now: Why are we being blamed for these closings? The truth is that family planning clinics overseas are closing because they insist on promoting their agenda at the risk of women's health. If they're not allowed to perform or suggest abortions, they claim that they can't operate at all. Nonsense! And they insist that if they're not there, the job won't get done. Also nonsense. Faith-based organizations overseas are more than willing and able to pick up the slack. And in areas such as AIDS prevention, they're doing a vastly better job than Planned Parenthood. For example, as we've pointed out before on BreakPoint, faith-based organizations have been at the forefront of the battle against AIDS in Africa. In Uganda, thanks to the ABC program -- abstinence first, be faithful second, and use condoms only as a last resort -- the AIDS rate has dropped from 15 percent to 5 percent of the population over a ten-year period. No other African country has seen such a drastic turnaround. And faith-based organizations have been instrumental in implementing and promoting the ABC program. The Planned Parenthood report mentions the success of this program, but refuses to admit that the emphasis on abstinence and monogamy are chiefly responsible for that success. So who's really blinded by ideology? The United States government, for rewarding family-friendly policies that work? Or the groups that insist that abortion is so important a service that all their other activities depend on their freedom to perform it? Come on. The facts speak for themselves: Don't be taken in -- or let your friends be taken in -- by Planned Parenthood propaganda. For further reading and information: Read the report by Planned Parenthood and Population Action International. (Adobe Acrobat Readerrequired.) Maggie Fox, "Study: U.S. Abortion Policy Closes African Clinics," Reuters, 24 September 2003. "Restoration of the Mexico City Policy," White House Office of the Press Secretary, 22 January 2001. Steven Ertelt, "Bush Administration Expands Pro-Life Mexico City Policy,", 1 September 2003. Nicholas D. Kristof, "Killing Them Softly," New York Times, 20 September 2003 (posted on Nicholas D. Kristof, "When Prudery Kills," New York Times, 8 October 2003. See also Chuck Colson's letter to the editor responding to this column. (Archived articles; bot cost $2.95 to retrieve.) Charles Colson with Anne Morse, "Beyond Condoms," Christianity Today, June 2003. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030513, "Bringing Down the Numbers." Mark Stricherz, "ABC vs. HIV," Christianity Today, April 2003. "A Responsible Approach to a Global AIDS Policy," BreakPoint Online.


Chuck Colson



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