Bush pushes controversial AIDS plan
In rare defiance of the moral conservatives within his own party, President Bush has urged Congress to fight AIDS with a plan that advocates condom use and permits money to go to groups that promote abortion reports the new York Times.
He was careful however to make one of his central arguments in the biblical language of Christian conservatives, many of whom have taken on fighting AIDS as a moral cause.
"When we see a plague leaving graves and orphans across a continent, we must act," Mr. Bush said.
Using the illustration of the Good Samaritan he continued. "When we see the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not ó America will not ó pass to the other side of the road."
Mr. Bush made clear that AIDS and his credentials as a "compassionate conservative" were of greater concern in this instance than fear of aggravating part of his conservative base.
Conservatives have complained that the plan does not focus enough on the promotion of abstinence and that AIDS money should not go to international groups that promote abortion.
They note that the federal government's "Mexico City" policy ó named for the place that Ronald Reagan announced it ó bars foreign aid to international family planning groups that promote abortion.
This is something that pro-life groups in the UK have also campaigned about.
The White House has tried to accommodate conservatives as it presses forward on the plan, which the president is insistent that he have in hand for a trip to Africa this year.
"We can turn our eyes away in resignation or despair," Mr. Bush said, "or we can take decisive, historic action to turn the tide against this disease and give the hope of life to millions who need our help now."
The president's words were aimed at promoting Mr. Hyde's bill, which is expected to be voted on in the House on Thursday. To help ensure that the bill passes, administration officials have promised they would permit AIDS money to go only to organizations that keep their AIDS and family planning programs, including abortion, separate. Nonetheless, that provision is not specifically written into the bill, because it was thought it would poison too many Democrats against it.
Administration officials also said today that the president strongly supported what is known as the Ugandan A.B.C. campaign, which says: First, abstain. If you can't abstain, be faithful. And if you can't be faithful, use a condom.
Mr. Hyde's bill also endorses the A.B.C. policy, which has been effective in Uganda. Even so, some conservatives in Congress said today that the A.B.C. policy did not sufficiently endorse abstinence.
As a remedy, Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, said he would offer an amendment to direct a third of the money for AIDS prevention to abstinence programs. Representative Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, is to offer an additional amendment to exempt religious groups overseas from having to hand out condoms.
Congressional aides who have visited humanitarian groups in Africa said today that the amendments ó and the administration's commitment to make sure that AIDS money does not mingle with money for family planning ó had little to do with how the groups actually operated.
They acknowledged that the last-minute haggling was entirely driven by American domestic politics.