ON THE FIRST official business day of his presidency, on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, George W. Bush attacked abortion rights. He's started with U.S. money on foreign shores. Aid that goes to family-planning and pregnancy-prevention can no longer go to agencies that use their own money for abortions or even abortion discussion.
Let's be clear here: They do not use money from the United States toward abortions; we do not pay for abortions in foreign lands. It's been illegal for nearly three decades. So Bush is pulling funding for teaching sex education, for teaching contraception and for providing contraception.
He had made it a part of our foreign policy to dictate what people, groups and governments outside of our boundaries can say and how they spend their money. It is ridiculous to make other peoples kowtow to an issue that even in our own country remains so volatile, upon which there is no agreement. To threaten these funds disregards the extreme problems other countries are facing. It disregards the difficulties that families, and women in particular, in underdeveloped nations face in trying to survive from day to day.
When making ends meet with three children is a struggle, a fourth child could devastate a family economically.
Family planning is the answer. It is what is needed before a pregnancy occurs. It is what prevents the desire for an abortion. It is what prevents stupid or desperate measures -- hangers and chemical ingestion for instance -- when legal and safe abortion is unavailable. Preventing pregnancy prevents abortion.
These are not the girls Bush knew back in his All-American fraternity-cheerleader days, flaunting their sexual freedom, unthinkingly ignoring the consequences of their choices and using abortion as birth control.
Our new president seems unaware of cultures where girls are treated as property, used to pay off debt, like chips at a poker table. Where they are objects for sex; raped not wooed. Where they have little or no choice regarding their virginity or their abstinence.
If he is unaware of that, then he certainly does not know the power and self-worth a woman gains by being able to control if or when she will have a child. He is probably unaware of the courage it takes to make the effort or how important it is for the means to be available when the courage comes.
He seems unaware of the global population explosion in some curves of the world that a little education could begin to curb.
He seems to be unaware of the devastation of AIDS in Africa and Asia. His gauntlet thrown down against abortion will also stop the education and the condoms meant to slow the spread of HIV.
How ironic is it that Bush could not devise this kind of stranglehold, enact this kind of blackmail, in the United States because our constitution guarantees freedom of speech.
But he can gag countries and prevent their planned parenthood agencies and doctors from providing information about a patent's medical options. Or they can stop taking our money. Yes, they do have a choice, but it is not a choice they should have to make.
Bush's reasons for doing this are all wrong. People have said -- and he said -- this was something he promised to do and now he's done it. One might wonder when he made this vow. Some time between the pseudo-controversy of bureaucRATS and the DWI probably.
Perhaps he wasn't clear and mangled some words when he made this promise. Maybe we were distracted by "subliminable" messages. Whatever he said is hard to verify. But it is clear that he evaded questions and serious discussion about abortion during the campaign, to the point that some thought it would be easy to label him pro-choice.
He said so little that many were lulled into a sense of complacency believing he would do nothing to alter abortion laws. He was so convincing when he talked about no litmus tests that again, we may have been misled.
Perhaps he will choose people because they are skilled or honest or, as is his favorite description, good people, but they may just happen to be anti-abortion folks as well. John Ashcroft is the perfect example of that.
As knowledgeable and honorable as he may be regarding following the law, he is strongly opposed to abortion and that can easily factor into his decisions. This can't be believed to be a coincidence in Bush's choice.
We, however, are supposed to admire Bush because he keeps his word and does what he says. I would admire him more if he carefully considered what he was saying and doing.
Fry is an editorial writer and a member of the Times editorial board.
Copyright 2001 ContraCostaTimes