On Friday, President Bush ordered the State Department to withhold U.S. family planning funds from overseas groups that promote or perform abortions with their own money. The decision expands an order issued two years ago that applied only to family-planning money administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, a division of the State Department. The White House announced the decision in a statement issued in Crawford, Tex., where Bush was vacationing.
Bush said the order excludes money distributed under his $15 billion, five-year plan to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, but critics said the policy means the poor still will suffer, particularly in other developing nations where HIV and family planning programs are operated by the same agencies. "At this time, the face of HIV/AIDS in Africa is a young woman, and family planning services are integral," said Terri Bartlett, vice president of Population Action International, a research-based advocacy group in Washington.
Family planning advocates criticized the decision, calling it a byproduct of the State Department's action last week to end funding for an AIDS program for African and Asian refugees. The State Department said it believed one of several groups participating in the AIDS initiative, Marie Stopes International, supports involuntary abortions and sterilizations in China. Marie Stopes offers abortion counseling and services, but U.S. officials said they had no evidence it supports forced abortions.