The Religious Right And International Aid

The American religious right has been very active internationally during the Bush administration. As this AP article lays out, conservatives are increasingly influencing local politics in countries around the world in a way that advances their anti-abortion philosophy.

The “global gag rule”, installed by President Bush as one of his first acts of his first day in office, denies US funding and contraceptives to any NGO that dicusses abortion as an option. In the global south, many family planning NGOs rely on US funding to serve their communities with information about AIDS, family planning, STDs, etc. There is already a law in the US that prohibits USAID donor money from funding abortions, so this law serves only to stifle free speech and to inhibit citizens of other countries from learning about their rights. That doesn’t seem very consistent with the US government’s goal of spreading democracy around the world. Population Action International has an excellent outline of the global gag rule, and has a good video about its impacts.

I think that people have a right to health education and family planning, and by restricting access to education and contraception, poor people are more at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. AIDS is ravaging the global south, and one of the strongest means of fighting the war on AIDS is by educating people about their bodies and their rights.

So when I read about US conservatives getting involved in local debates in foreign countries about abortion, it makes me understand why people in the global south sometimes feel that USAID is just another propaganda tool for the Republican Party. It shouldn’t have to be that way, and that perception lessens the effectiveness of all USAID programs by increasing doubt about its motives.

I think it is ironic that people who are so concerned with the preservation of life in the womb seem so unconcerned about the lives of people who have been born.

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