DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Family Planning Policy

By Jill Moss

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

One of President Bush's first foreign policy actions was to end government aid to international family planning groups that support operations to end pregnancies. These operations are called abortions. President Reagan started this policy in Nineteen-Eighty-Four. President Clinton suspended the policy in Nineteen-Ninety-Three.

The policy says that private international family planning groups that receive American government aid must stop performing abortions. The only exceptions are if an unmarried woman became pregnant by a family member or if a pregnant woman's life was in danger. International groups that receive American aid are also not allowed to support abortion as a method of family planning.

Supporters of Mr. Bush's decision say the policy honors the cultural and religious values of many developing countries. One group that supports Mr. Bush's decision is the United States National Right to Life Committee.

The group's spokeswoman is Olivia Gans. She says that renewing the policy is important. That is because it permits foreign governments to set their own policy on the issue. In addition, she says it will help countries realize that America honors their laws on abortion. She says President Bush's decision has taken the United States out of the business of selling abortions in other countries.

However, other groups have criticized the decision. They say it may lead to a rise in unsafe and dangerous abortions around the world.

Marie Stopes International is a health agency based in London. The organization estimates that seventy-five-thousand women in the world die each year from unsafe abortions. In addition, it says hundreds-of-thousands of women suffer permanent health problems from unsafe abortions.

Samantha Guy is spokeswoman for Marie Stopes International. She says President Bush's decision is dangerous because the number of unsafe abortions in developing countries will rise.

She says many private agencies will not be able to provide methods of birth control if they no longer receive American aid. So women in developing countries will not have safe ways to prevent pregnancies. Women who do not get such help will be forced to take action. Mizz Guy says they likely will choose unsafe abortions instead of pregnancy. This is especially true if they already have many children.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Jill Moss.

Voice of America Special English