ON INTERNATIONAL FAMILY PLANNING FUNDING
The U.S. Congress passed a foreign aid bill
Oct. 25 that increased funding for international family planning programs in the 2001
federal budget and removed the "global gag rule" restriction. The gag rule would
have prohibited foreign groups that receive U.S. assistance from using non-U.S. funds to
engage in political speech about abortion or perform abortion services in their countries.
Major U.S. media outlets reported throughout October on negotiations over the spending
bill and on the outcome.
An Oct. 25 front-page New York Times
article gave the details: $425 million for international family planning, "up from
the $385 million that is currently provided." However, Republicans "made sure
that the money could not be used before next Feb. 15 -- after the next president takes
office" and could make further decisions about policy surrounding international
family planning assistance.
Many stories emphasized the impact of U.S.
abortion politics on international family planning programs. The Los Angeles Times
reported Oct. 25 that "leading members of Congress agreed...to scrap an anti-abortion
restriction on U.S. foreign aid programs -- a significant legislative victory for abortion
rights advocates in advance of the Nov. 7 election." The Oct. 25 Washington
Times reported that "budget negotiators...agreed to gamble on who will be
the next president rather than resolve a dispute over abortion." The Associated
Press incorrectly identified the funding as "Abortion Aid" in stories
filed Oct. 21 and 25.
The Oct. 27 Omaha World-Herald
used a local Planned Parenthood event as the framework for its story and reported that
"the outcome of the upcoming election will have a significant effect on domestic and
international family-planning programs."
The Washington Post reported
on the issue in the context of longer stories about the Foreign Operations Appropriations
bill throughout the last two weeks of October. News about the agreement over international
family planning funding was also carried by the Chicago Tribune Oct. 26, National
Public Radio's Morning Edition Oct. 25 and 26, United Press International
Oct. 25, USA Today Oct. 26, and The Wall Street Journal Oct. 20 and 25.
International outlets including Agence France Presse and the Pan-African
News Agency also reported on the story Oct. 25.
Media outlets continued to report on
population declines in Russia, including the Oct. 20 Associated Press,
Oct. 24 Deutsche Presse-Agentur, and Oct. 26 Independent
(London). The AP reported that "Russia's population drop is considered by
demographers to be highly unusual in an industrial country," occurring because of
"social and economic disorder in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union."
Several countries' census efforts also made
the news. China's fifth national census, scheduled to begin Nov. 1, "is more
complicated and more arduous" than previous efforts, according to the Oct. 27 Xinhua
News Agency. The story noted that to "ensure the accuracy of the census, the
data received...are not allowed to be used...to punish anyone on population-related
The Oct. 30 Associated Press
reported that the "release of Kenyan census results [were] delayed for the third
time" due to "a series of technical, logistical and administrative problems in
data processing and analysis" of the 1999 data.
The Oct. 30 Hindu (India)
reported that "uncertainty looms large over the completion of" the first census
taken in Kashmir since 1981, because of accusations by local politicians that
"claimed it was being conducted to decrease the [reported size of the] Muslim
PLANNING AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
"Contraception in Indonesia, after years
of being government policy, is slowly but surely becoming a matter of choice,"
according to the Oct. 20 Asiaweek (Hong Kong), with "more emphasis
on education and on understanding the pros and cons of various methods of birth
control." However, "the weakest area is women's reproductive health,"
resulting in a "towering maternal mortality rate and abortion cases."
The Xinhua News Agency
reported Oct. 23 that "more and more Angolan families have resorted to contraceptive
methods for ensuring their responsible parenthood," with 17 percent more people using
national family planning services than in 1999.
In India, "leading women's rights
groups...are pressing the government to give up its plan to use contraceptive injections
as part of the national birth control program," according to an Oct. 17 InterPress
Service story. The activists "say that these are not suitable for India
because...long-acting contraceptives require proper counseling and follow-up, which is not
possible with India's poorly managed and ill-equipped health delivery services."
An Oct. 22 interview in The Times of
India with activist Alexander Sanger covered family planning programs and
politics in India and the United States. Sanger noted that "India was the first
country to include family planning in its national health programme," but that the
U.S. "do[es] not have national legislation on birth control and very little funding
INTERNATIONAL ABORTION TRENDS
The Oct. 17 Boston Globe
reported that in Mexico, "the abortion issue is now posing a major challenge to the
president-elect [Vicente Fox], forcing him to walk a fine line between his party
conservatives and the more liberal majority who swept him to power." The country is
experiencing an "increasingly acrimonious debate over abortion," with recent
restrictions imposed in several Mexican states "spark[ing] widespread protests from
women's groups and human rights organizations, who saw it as a sign of the growing
influence of the religious right."
The Associated Press reported
Oct. 18 that "dozens of police raided a clinic of an international family planning
agency in southern Mexico and arrested a doctor and nurse accused of performing
abortions." Marie Stopes International, which runs the Chiapas clinic, denied the
charge, saying the agency "offers safe abortion services only in countries where
abortion is legal." Agence France Presse also reported the story
In Cambodia, "illegal abortions in
back-alley clinics are costing the lives of hundreds of Cambodian women each year,"
according to an Oct. 27 Agence France Presse story reporting on a Marie
Stopes International study. Deutsche Presse-Agentur also reported on the
study Oct. 27.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported
Oct. 20 on a Center for Reproductive Law and Policy study of reproductive health policy in
Central and East European countries, noting that "Poland drew particularly harsh
criticism for having one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe."
NEW UNFPA EXECUTIVE
The Oct. 26 New York Times
reported that "Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, an American-educated Saudi woman, was chosen...to
be executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, which has made the expansion
of women's rights central to its mission of cutting population growth worldwide."
Obaid has "25 years of experience in women's issues and development" and is
currently head of UNFPA's division for Arab States and Europe.
Obaid will replace Nafis Sadik, who retires at
the end of this year after 13 years as executive director of the agency. The Oct. 26 Los
Angeles Times, Washington Post and Washington Times
also reported on the appointment, as did the Associated Press Oct. 24, Agence
France Presse Oct. 27 and Deutsche Presse-Agentur Oct. 25.
Media outlets across the U.S. continued to
weigh in before and after Congress passed increased FY2001 funding for international
family planning programs and removed the global gag rule restrictions in the foreign aid
Newspapers that ran editorials supporting
increased funding and the removal of the gag rule included the Burlington County
Times (Willingboro, NJ) Oct. 17, Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Oct. 21, Daily Camera (Boulder, CO) Oct. 25, Fresno Bee (Fresno,
CA) Oct. 30, Galveston County Daily News (Galveston, TX) Oct. 23, Los
Angeles Times Oct. 26, New York Times Oct. 19, Newsday
(New York) Oct. 23, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA) Oct. 17, Portland
Press Herald (Portland, ME) Oct. 27, San Francisco Chronicle
Oct. 26, San Jose Mercury News Oct. 26 and The Washington Post
These editorials focused on women's health,
free speech issues, abortion politics and the importance of the presidential election
given the Feb. 15 delay in implementation of funding. For example, The Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette noted that "every year the U.S. Congress plays politics with
its international family planning funds, holding them hostage to an anti-abortion
agenda" and that the "offensive gamesmanship, with lifesaving dollars at stake,
The San Francisco Chronicle
editorial stated that "foreign aid should be saved for the broad purposes of
nation-building, economic growth and democratic reform" and that "an emotional
domestic political subject should not be used to deny aid to needy neighbors," giving
voters "another reason to focus on the presidential race." Similarly, The
Los Angeles Times stated that "a gag rule on family planners overseas may
not be an electoral make-or-break issue, but it's one more sharp difference between the
In addition, the Oct. 21 Plain Dealer
(Cleveland, OH) reprinted the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial
supporting international family planning funding, and the Oct. 30 Burlington County Times
(Willingboro, NJ) cited the global gag rule as one reason it was supporting a local
By contrast, only one editorial was printed
that opposed U.S. funding of international family planning programs. The Oct. 30 Times
and Free Press (Chattanooga, TN) argued that the international family planning
funds would give "taxes to organizations that also use private funds to kill
babies" and asked its readers: "will you pay for foreign abortions?"
Media outlets also printed opinion pieces
about the gag rule and the international family planning funding debate. A piece by
columnist Judy Mann in the Oct. 27 Washington Post stated that "the
global gag rule is a cynical, contrived issue designed to keep the fire going in the
antiabortion movement" and that "anybody who thinks this election isn't going to
make a huge difference to women's rights needs a reality check." Likewise, an Oct. 19
commentary distributed over Knight Ridder/Tribune wire service by the Center for
Reproductive Law and Policy's Janet Benshoof noted that the gag rule was about a
"commitment to women's rights."
The Oct. 17 Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln,
NE) printed an op-ed by the Population Institute's Werner Fornos that stated "the
domestic struggle over abortion, infused with inflammatory rhetoric...has overshadowed all
other reproductive health considerations and has indeed taken voluntary
international family planning efforts as a hostage."
Letters supporting international family
planning funding and opposing the gag rule were printed by the Oct. 18 Asbury Park
Press (Asbury, NJ), Oct. 25 Daily Oklahoman, Oct. 24 Kansas
City Star, Oct. 29 New York Times, Oct. 22 Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette and Oct. 16 Sacramento Bee.
The above analysis was written by Ketayoun
Darvich-Kodjouri and Kathy Bonk at the Communications Consortium Media Center, 1200 New
York Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005, 202/326-8700.
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