The error of our ideology

Apr 162006
Authors: Chris Sigmund Iowa State Daily Iowa State U.

AMES, Iowa – I’d rather be immoral than dead or tortured or forced to watch helplessly as young children deteriorate. Odds are I will never face such a stark personal decision, but if it came up – say on the other side of the globe – I would want to choose my own destiny.

Debating abortion is worthless. The above scenario doesn’t aim to change the beliefs of pro-lifers throughout the country. It just adds a little perspective to the ramifications of an increasingly public political ideology. Our country’s beliefs have consequences that span an ocean and affect lives far removed from local churches or abortion clinics.

Ideology aimed toward saving lives at home can be just as effective at ending them abroad.

The president’s recent budget proposal presented sharp cuts in international family planning. With funding dropping nearly 18 percent, organizations working to fight the global spread of AIDS – primarily in Africa – and educate populations on safety guards against sexually transmitted diseases lost $80 million.

It’s the latest chapter in a dangerous trend.

On his first full day in office five years ago, President Bush brought back a rule from the Reagan presidency that prohibited government financing of anyone who provided counseling or advocacy of abortion.

International arms of family planning organizations, which focus primarily on preventative measures and not abortion procedures, were hit with crippling financial cuts.

A continent with 25 million people suffering from an incurable disease is now being shorted again for one reason: American morals.

Faced with escalating tension about abortion legislation in South Dakota and a shuffled Supreme Court, we have stripped away more resources that could provide individuals across Africa with birth control and counseling that is not compromised by an abstinence-only mindset.

I know we will never truly help Africa, at least to the hands-on extent most advocates desire. Too many of our own daily problems cloud a continent thousands of miles away, with a people whose primitive cultures and dark complexions prohibit us from seeing them as equal human beings.

It would be impossible to function if we actually realized the atrocious lives being lived there.

We can, however, send them conscience-clearing money to better their own situations. With the help of those rare individuals willing to trek through Africa, these relief funds can influence the future of a disease-ridden region. We don’t even have to think about what’s truly going on there.

Yet somehow, even this has become too much.

African women suffer most from our growing indifference. Political hotshot Jacob Zuma stands trial in South Africa for raping an HIV-positive woman. The “she-asked-for-it” nature of his trial threatens to turn back the clock in a country with the world’s highest rape rate.

In cultures where women are socially reprimanded or beaten for being raped, we must do all we can to ensure that we don’t cut resources that help to protect their bodies from pregnancy, disease and – through programs combating sexual assault – violence.

We can argue all day about “states’ rights” or when a fetus becomes a life, but decisions being made at the high reaches of our government have real effects outside our own stories of clinic protests and legal precedent.

In Botswana, 8,800 miles from the heartland of America, the life expectancy will soon hit 27 years old. Without AIDS, most there would live to be 72.

Individual Americans cannot be expected to travel to Africa and help dispense condoms or medicine. In truth, what each of us has for dinner likely affects our lives more than these sickening statistics.

But as a country – one that can afford to help – we cannot consciously exacerbate others’ problems just to satisfy our own moral consciences.

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