20 September 2003

Nicholas Kristof Gets it Right, Again

The Bush administration is at it again, cutting more and more funding for family planning groups, including Marie Stopes International, operating in Africa. Why? It seems the President is so concerned about coerced abortions in China he's willing to let pregnant women and their children die in Africa. No, it doesn't make sense to me, and Kristof points out why:

Complications of pregnancy and childbirth kill a quarter-million African women each year, and those deaths are what the refugee consortium is trying to prevent. I visited five Marie Stopes clinics in Kenya, spoke to the patients and front-line doctors, and found them to be a lifeline for destitute girls and women who have few alternatives.

That number will only rise if the administration continues to cut funding. Furthermore, the organization Kristof visited isn't even involved in forced abortions in China.

It's true that Marie Stopes International operates in China — providing contraceptives that reduce the number of abortions there. If Mr. Bush were trying to do something about coercive family planning in China by denouncing such abuses, I'd applaud him. But instead he's launching his administration on an ideological war against groups like the U.N. Population Fund and Marie Stopes. In fact, these groups are engaging China in just the way the White House recommends most of the time.

When the topic of human rights abuses in China is raised, Mr. Bush usually argues, wisely, that it would be wrong to impose sanctions that punish the Chinese people. So it seems odd that when the issue is Chinese family-planning abuses, Mr. Bush responds by punishing African women.

It seems odd indeed that an administration preaching life seems willing to cause the deaths of poor African women for the sake of domestic politics.


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