Bush mistakenly rejects population accord

Earlier this week, the George W. Bush administration announced its intention to withdraw from a U.N. population- and family-planning accord. Although the United States had previously agreed to the accord, the administration is mistakenly rejecting an otherwise prudent international agreement because of language supporting abortion rights.

The United States had signed the accord during the Clinton administration at a 1994 global population conference in Egypt. At the recent Asia and Pacific Population Conference, the Bush administration threatened to remove the United States from the list of signatory nations. The accord focuses on improving the legal rights and economic status of women through empowerment and education and aides countries in controlling population growth rates. Signed by 179 other nations, it urged countries to reduce maternal mortality rates, curb the spread of HIV and AIDS, improve health care facilities and in countries that allow it, provide safe abortions.

The Bush administration objected to a single phrase in an otherwise significant document. Instead of appreciating the overall benefits the agreement would have produced, the administration obsessed over the guarantee of “reproductive health services and reproductive rights.” Representatives of the European and Asian nations attending the conference were fervently opposed to the United States’ rejection of the agreement, which will further undermine U.N. agreements, decisions made by women and measures already taken to control population numbers.

The State Department refused to elaborate on any reasons why the administration thought it was imperative to withdraw from an agreement because of one phrase. Backed by conservative groups, the Bush administration suggested that abstinence is the solution to Third World population growth problems. By failing to offer legitimate alternatives to the population accords, the Bush administration has once again disrespected participants and the United Nations. Again, the administration has negatively affected Bush’s own legitimacy in the international community because abortion has been legal in the United States for nearly 30 years.

The rejection of this treaty because of a phrase allowing other sovereign nations the option of keeping abortions legal raises serious questions about the Bush administration’s ability to separate important political decisions from religious agendas. In fact, it is exactly the separation of church and state that helps the United States avoid domestic radicalism. The Bush administration’s decision is another appallingly arrogant attempt to ignore the international community by imposing religious beliefs upon not only public policy, but global policy as well.