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Mexico City Is Just the Beginning

George Santayana once remarked that the only thing liberalism had liberated man from was his marriage vows. Today, he might add that, of all the dangers to civilized life, liberals have somehow convinced themselves that population growth ranks near the top of the list. How liberalism worked itself into this state of mind must await another occasion, but its preoccupation with birth control, and especially abortion, is singular to the point of obsession. Let liberals anywhere near power and, before they plug in their computers, they’re dreaming up grandiose schemes to protect us against more children.

The Obama administration is already briskly advancing an anti-fertility, pro-abortion policy both at home and abroad. Four critical choke points determine the formation and implementation of federal policy in this area: the White House staff designs and monitors overarching presidential directives; the Department of Justice oversees their legal enforcement; the Department of Health and Human Services distributes or withholds funding to encourage (or, as the case may be, to coerce) compliance with domestic health care mandates; and the State Department pursues a similar course of action overseas.

The president has deliberately staffed these bureaucracies with appointees whose policy agenda could have been – and for all we know, may have been – designed by Planned Parenthood. As a member of Congress, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel worked hand in glove with the pro-abortion lobby. The White House Communications Director is the former head of Emily’s List, the potent pro-abortion PAC, one of whose directors has been appointed chief of the White House domestic policy staff. This cozy relationship was to have been enhanced by the addition of Tom Daschle, who led the charge in the Senate to prevent enactment of a ban on partial-birth abortion. Daschle has now withdrawn as the president’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, but whoever his replacement is, you can be sure that he will be charged with carrying out a significant piece of the administration’s abortion agenda

The designees for attorney general, deputy attorney general, and associate attorney general are all staunch defenders of Roe v. Wade. The nominee for head of the Office of Legal Counsel – in effect, the outside law firm for the White House – is the former legal director of the National Abortion Rights Action League. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has of course been conspicuous for her outspoken defense of legal abortion; and her deputy secretary has expressed his strong support for the promotion of abortion abroad. So has our new U. N. ambassador.

President Obama has made abundantly clear in word and deed over many years that he intends to remove all remaining legal and financial obstacles to abortion. With these appointments, his administration is now poised to implement an aggressively pro-abortion agenda whenever an opportunity presents itself. On January 24, the president served up his first offering by overturning the prior administration’s “Mexico City Policy,” which prohibited funding of abortion overseas. (The name comes from guidelines announced by the Reagan administration at a 1983 U.N. conference in Mexico City. Reagan’s initiative held for ten years, Clinton reversed it, George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001.)

Experts differ on the numerical impact of the Reagan-Bush policy, though it clearly helped save thousands of unborn children. It also made clear that the United States would not promote a culture of death throughout the world. The renewal of USAID funding, however, reveals only a small part of the new administration’s pro-abortion program. The president has also promised to reverse the Bush administration’s denial of U.S. support to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). Bush’s decision followed a State Department finding that UNFPA had collaborated with China’s forced abortion and sterilization programs. Meanwhile, senior appointees have indicated that the president will approve the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), another U.N. contrivance that, under the color of preventing discrimination, will promote legalization of abortion across the globe.

It is incongruous, to say the least, that a president who has already half-apologized for what he considers American meddling in international affairs should so blithely encourage meddling in the domestic policy of other nations.

These international gestures, however, are small beer compared to what lies ahead on the domestic front. The administration intends to rewrite American health care policy and its funding formulas from top to bottom, and in doing so will support the pro-abortion position at every turn. Soon, judicial appointments by the dozens will come, virtually all of which will be subjected to a Roe v. Wade litmus test. In a word, the strength and resilience of the pro-life movement will be tested as never before.

The new administration is intellectually sophisticated, politically savvy, armed and ready for battle. But so is the pro-life movement. Indeed, the Achilles’ heel of the president’s abortion policies may lie in the arrogant (or perhaps merely ignorant) dismissal of pro-life political sentiment. Bill Clinton claimed that abortion ought to be made “safe, legal, and rare.” He didn’t mean a word of it, but his political instincts told him to be cautious in advancing a radical feminist agenda.

            Thus far, the new administration exhibits little of Clinton’s self-regarding caution. The president and his aides no doubt think they hold the upper hand on abortion funding and embryonic stem-cell research, conscience-clause and parental-consent legislation, and the most extreme legislative interpretations of Roe v. Wade. But no battle plan survives the first engagement with the enemy. The president may soon discover that the real America and the America he thinks he knows are two very different things.

Michael Uhlmann served in the Reagan White House and taught American politics at the Claremont Graduate University.