President Bush’s stance on abortion is and will remain a concern to the advocates of individual rights.
He holds a convoluted position that straddles the intellectual fence between the pro- and anti-abortion groups. He believes abortion is wrong–except when it isn’t: in the cases of rape, incest, and a threat to the life of the mother. Further, he has said that the abortion issue should be handled outside the realm of politics, while simultaneously declaring his intent to ban the late term abortion procedure known as “partial birth abortion,” keeping abortion on the political front burner. [As abortion is an issue of rights, it cannot be anything but a political issue, as well as a moral one.] In other words, Bush’s abortion views are mired in contradictions.
In one of his first acts as President, he reinstated restrictions on the use of federal money for overseas groups that advocate abortion–a restriction from the Reagan and Bush (Senior) administrations that Clinton had lifted in one of his first acts as President.
In his executive memorandum to the Agency for International Development (the agency responsible for these funds), Mr. Bush wrote, “It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion either here or abroad.”1 On this he his correct, but his statement would be more reassuring were it not for two problems with his memorandum. Firstly, he leaves in place the $425 million in aid for overseas family planning. Secondly, the restriction applies only to groups based in the United States; foreign governments that receive this money are not bound by the restriction and can use those taxpayer funds to advocate any kind of family planning they wish, which will inevitably involve advocating some kind of morality.
The implicit premise behind Bush’s statement is a proper respect for the separation of government from morality. Taxpayer money should not support any particular morality in any place. A consistent respect for this principle would require that Bush intended to abolish all federal funds for family planning–here and abroad–not to mention every other area in which the government improperly intrudes into private lives, but this is too much to expect of Bush. Bush is a pragmatic Christian, not a principled capitalist.
It may be premature to judge his final goal on abortion–if, indeed, he has one. Is this merely a first step to begin reversing Clinton’s many wrongs, or is it the first step to abolishing the right to abortion?
We shall be watching.
1 “Bush Acts to Deny Money Overseas Tied to Abortion,” New York Times, 1/23/01