U.S. refuses to reaffirm Population Agreement over HIV, abortion language

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 17 2002 1:00 AM ET

Officials from the Bush administration have refused to reaffirm the 1994 international Population Control agreement at the Fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference being held in Bangkok, Thailand, in part because the Administration disagrees with the agreement's support of "consistent condom use" as a way to prevent HIV infection, The New York Times reports. The officials also oppose reproductive health and family planning language in the document, which they say could be construed as "promoting abortion." Administration officials are instead pushing for a change in the document's language to promote "natural" family planning methods and abstinence and monogamy as the preferred methods to prevent HIV infections. All other 60 member countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific support the original draft of the agreement.

According to Asian and European diplomats, the U.S. position has made it impossible for the conference to address other issues, such as HIV/AIDS prevention. "People hoped to discuss very practical, service-oriented things: how to develop services to deal with sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, how to do sex education," one Asian official told the Times. "People's frustration was that we're not able to discuss what we really want to discuss, because the United States insists on renegotiating key concepts, which we are not willing to do."

Critics of the U.S. stance allege that the Bush administration has attempted to change the plan language to "bolster its support" among Catholic and fundamentalist Christian voters. Attendees of the conference also said they were "stunned and amazed" that the U.S. delegates were attempting to dictate policy for parts of the world in which they have no experience or expertise in handling population-control and health issues.