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US Defends Family Planning Policies at Bangkok Conference - 2002-12-16

The United States has been defending its aid policy on family planning at an international conference in Bangkok. Delegates at the fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference say Washington's concerns about abortion are already being addressed.

The American delegation faced criticism Monday over Washington's concerns about using abortion as a means of family planning.

The U.S. team defended Washington's family planning aid, amid diplomatic skirmishes in Bangkok over whether abortion was a key element of an international family planning agreement reached in Cairo in 1994.

Eugene Dewey is a U-S assistant secretary of state and the head of the delegation to the United Nations' fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok.

"The U.S. spends over $2 billion per year on health assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development alone," said Eugene Dewey, the U.S. assistant secretary of state who heads the American delegation to the United Nations' fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok. "The U.S. spent over $700 million on reproductive health care last year, including about $450 million to developing countries."

Washington, however, wants to revise the action plan reached at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD. The plan supports "reproductive health services" and "reproductive rights."

The U.S. delegation says those terms support abortion as a family planning measure. President George W. Bush's administration opposes abortion.

"We have been asked to reaffirm the entirety of the ICPD principles and recommendations even though we have repeatedly stated that to do so would constitute an endorsement of abortion," stressed Mr. Dewey.

Other delegates - including Britain, China, Turkey and Indonesia - have protested the U.S. proposal to change the plan.

Washington has cut funding to the U.N. Family Planning Association, saying it helps the Chinese government force women to have abortions.

But Gillian Greer, executive director of the New Zealand Family Planning Association, says those concerns are addressed in the Cairo Plan of Action Agreement. "There are numerous statements in the program of action that say that in no way is abortion to be promoted as a method of family planning," said Ms. Greer. "So in other words, the concerns of the U.S. are already well and truly substantively met and repeatedly addressed in the document."

Ms. Greer says the plan of action works toward responsible sexual behavior and the use of safe sex practices.