- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2001

One of President Bush's laudable goals is to run a foreign policy that avoids the insufferable preachiness of the Clinton administration. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright liked to behave as though she was mother-in-law to the world. Surely, there are better ways to project our values and persuade by our example.

Abortion is one area where the Clinton administration showed no respect for the values of other countries and cultures not if they ran counter to "progressive" thinking among feminist groups in the United States. Talk about cultural imperialism.

When Mr. Clinton took power in 1993, among his first acts in office was to make it easier for American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to obtain federal funding for family planning, including abortions abroad. On Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, Mr. Clinton reversed the policy that had been in effect since 1984 under President Reagan. The Mexico City policy, known for the city where Mr. Reagan announced it, required NGOs that receive federal funds to accept restrictions on their activities abroad. They had to agree not to perform abortions, promote abortion as a means of family planning or lobby foreign governments to change their abortion laws.

Hard to believe as it is, U.S. organizations do want to meddle in this most sensitive and serious area for many countries. According to one of the biggest family planning recipients of federal dollars, International Planned Parenthood Federation's strategic document, "Vision 2000," the organization urges pressure on foreign governments and a "campaign for policy and legislative change to remove restrictions … against abortion." It is a target-rich environment out there; about 100 countries in the world, predominantly Muslim or Catholic, outlaw abortion for cultural and religious reasons.

Suitably, it was President Bush's first order of business to reverse the Clinton move by the same means, an executive order. Mr. Bush did this on his own first day in office, the 28th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. It was both a courageous and correct move. Why should Americans, who do not favor federal dollars for abortions at home, consent to pay for them abroad?

On issuing the order, Mr. Bush said, "It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortions, either here or abroad. It is therefore my belief that the Mexico City policy should be restored."

One ally who deserves mention here is Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Rights. During the Clinton years, Mr. Smith was often alone in carrying the cause to restore the Mexico City language by legislative means. Heated arguments over abortion became a stable of negotiations over foreign assistance because Mr. Smith for several years attached the Mexico City language to the bill. In the process, the staunch Mr. Smith took an awful lot of verbal abuse.

Just how much importance Mr. Clinton attached to the support of the feminist and pro-abortion groups, who repaid him by standing by their man during the impeachment trial, can be gauged from one fact: He would rather veto the 1999 foreign aid bill, which included $3.5 billion in credits for the IMF, $962 billion for the United Nations, and reorganization of the State Department, than accept even a modified version of the Mexico City language. Perversely, but inevitably, the press blamed the Republican Congress for holding up U.N. funding, etc.

The reaction to Mr. Bush's order from pro-abortion groups has been furious, particularly since Mr. Bush took the step on the 28th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. The fact that this was his first order of business as president certainly suggests the importance Mr. Bush attaches to the abortion issue, a fact not lost on pro-abortion groups. Janet Benshoof, president of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York, called Mr. Bush's actions "a malicious affront" to women.

No less than Sen. Hillary Clinton took time out from counting her new silverware to blast Mr. Bush in her first policy speech as an elected official. Addressing a health care forum in Washington, Mrs. Clinton said, "I would hope that this order, which penalizes family planning … would be rethought and reversed," she said, adding that her supporters must "remain vigilant so that the progress we've made thus far is not rolled back."

Democrats immediately tried to paint the Mexico language executive order as "Bush's gays in the military" a label that is being applied with profligate abandon to everything from the Ashcroft nomination to school vouchers and on.

Despite all the noise, however, so far the "gays in the military" label has failed to stick, but don't think we have seen the end of it.

Interestingly, Democrats may have only Mr. Clinton himself to blame. The news and chat shows have been dominated by the far more controversial and newsworthy, not to mention appalling and cheesy, behavior of the outgoing president, which has overshadowed Mr. Bush's policy decisions. There is no cloud without a silver lining it seems.

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