Ban on foreign abortion funds is left intact


WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration gained the Supreme Court's permission yesterday for another anti-abortion policy aimed at private groups that receive federal government funds -- this time, a policy focused on hospitals and clinics in other countries.

Without comment, the court left intact two decisions by the same lower court upholding the so-called "Mexico City policy," which denies federal family planning grants to private hospitals or groups overseas if they perform or promote abortions.

Eleven days ago, the court, splitting 5-4, upheld an order forbidding doctors and nurses at federally funded clinics to talk about abortion with poor women seeking to avoid pregnancy or childbirth.

Yesterday, the court chose to sidestep a similar controversy over the government's plans to export its anti-abortion policy when keyed to family planning money grants.

In one of the two decisions at stake yesterday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1988 that the policy -- unveiled by the Reagan administration at a population conference in Mexico City in 1984, and continued under President Bush -- did not violate U.S. law governing foreign family planning aid.

Last September, the Circuit Court rejected a constitutional challenge to the policy.

The Supreme Court, as is its custom, gave no reason for declining to review either decision. Both had been challenged in a single appeal by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and others (Planned Parenthood vs. Agency for International Development, No. 90-1169).

A federal law forbids the use of U.S. funds to pay directly for abortion as a method of family planning. But the government went further, and decided to deny such funds to any foreign hospital or group that does or promotes abortions, even if that activity is paid for with non-government money.

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