5278.0: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 - 4:30 PM

Abstract #17516

From Bipartisan Support and Program Growth to Political Conflict and Program Preservation: Holding the Fort

Steven Sinding, PhD, School of Public Health, Columbia University, Center for Population & Family Health, SPH/POP 60 HAVEN #B2, New York, NY 10032, 212-304-5200, sws61@columbia.edu

Anti-abortion activists had gained strong influence within the Reagan Administration by the time I was recruited as Director of the Office of Population in April 1983. Extremists also were opposed to contraception and able to cite fresh arguments by a few conservative economists discounting the "population crisis". We now know, from His Holiness (by Bernstein and Politi), that the Reagan administration had agreed with the Vatican to severely curtail, if not shut down altogether, USAID's population program.

Congress blocked Administration efforts to "zero out" population funding but harrassment was manifest in many ways: censorship of communications, directed grants, and interference in personnel decisions. By the late 1980's so-called "right-to-life" advocates such as Mercedes Wilson gained direct access to Vice-President Bush and Secretary of State George Schultz and, through them, secured a directed award to her Billings Method "natural" family planning program--just one example.

Strong constituencies in the Senate and House--supported by population and reproductive rights political activists, universities, foundations, and requests from U.N. and some foreign governments--prevailed. With a committed USAID administrator, Peter McPherson, the program survived intact, although severely affected by the "Mexico City policy" announced by the Administration at the 1984 International Conference on Population. The paper tells the inside story of how the Mexico City policy came into being and how USAID officials and the "population community" acted to maintain program momentum and coherence.

Learning Objectives: N/A

Keywords: Developing Countries, Reproductive Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA