On January 22, his second day in office and the anniversary of
Roe v. Wade, President George W. Bush restored in full an
executive order banning U.S.-funded international organizations
from even talking about abortion. Spun as an "anti-abortion" action,
in fact it was an attack on free speech. (Federal funding for abortion
has been illegal since 1973.) But even as Bush was gagging women
and doctors around the globe, he was giving voice to theocrats here
What could the gag order mean for health providers and their clients?
Consider Peru, where abortion is illegal and both a woman who ends
a pregnancy and the person who performs her abortion can be punished.
At the same time, vast numbers of women are without contraception,
sex education and basic reproductive services. Under a previous
incarnation of the gag order, Peruvian feminists had to choose between
a large U.S. grant to give reproductive health services to thousands
of poor, rural women and young people, and their organization's
right to advocate for what they believe is best for all Peruvians—a
change in the country's anti-abortion law. Painfully, they chose
Although Bush has indicated he'll support the existing $425 million
allocation for worldwide family planning services, Adrienne Germain
of the International Women's Health Coalition is fearful that the
U.S. Agency for International Development could impose new restrictions
on how the money is spent.
A week after his declaration on the so-called global gag rule,
Bush announced the formation of a White House Office on Faith-Based
and Community Initiatives. Its agenda: to move more public sector
jobs into private religious hands and, not coincidentally, to permit
the flow of more federal dollars to religious groups, including
those that push the pro-life cause.
Church groups, Bush says, deserve a chance to compete for taxpayer
money for after-school programs, prison ministries and drug treatment,
among other things. To that end, he says, the Republican administration
will make "billions" of dollars available for charitable groups
that meet social needs. "When we see social needs in America," Bush
announced, "my administration will look first to faith-based programs
and community groups."