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Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 1999 /8 Kislev, 5760

Paul Greenberg

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Uncle Sam, deadbeat -- THE THIRD TIME may be the charm. Twice now, Bill Clinton has vetoed bills that would have allowed the United States to pay its long-due arrears at the United Nations and save its voting rights, which are about to be revoked unless Uncle Sam comes up with $926 million in back dues.

Why would a president hesitate to pay the country's bills? Because this one loves abortion more than he does his country's credit rating.

Each time Congress has approved the payment to the U.N., it attached a rider specifying that no funds would be used to finance abortions overseas -- a proviso that was official American policy until this administration. But one of this president's first acts on taking office in 1993 was to revoke that policy.

If Bill Clinton does stick to any one principle, it's that developing countries need to prevent what our elite view as surplus population. It's as if he wanted birth, not abortion, to be rare, safe and legal.

Demographers may debate the wisdom of aborting population growth, for the world has never been so populous and the life span of the species so long. Or its general health so good. Maybe because man's scientific creativity continues to keep pace with his biological kind.

But to question abortion is to question not just the conventional wisdom, but an article of faith in this culture. It's a culture that is always producing new deathstyles -- the latest is assisted suicide -- but abortion remains its major sacrament. Though in the formal rituals at appropriation time, abortion is always referred to obliquely as Family Planning.

Surely no politician better reflects the post-modern culture than this stylish president. He's vetoed this appropriation bill twice now -- not because he loves the U.N. less, but because he loves abortion more. Now with the United States already labeled a deadbeat and about to lose its U.N. vote, he may relent. The modern abolitionists in Congress certainly won't; they're determined to end Uncle Sam's role as the great promoter of abortion abroad.

``The basic parameters of the deal are tied down,'' says Dennis Hastert, the Republican speaker of the House, who sounds ripe for the plucking. As soon as some of us hear the overused word Parameters, we tap our breasts -- to make sure our wallets are still in place. If the Republicans haven't gone over the bill's language with a fine-toothed electron microscope and a bevy of Philadelphia lawyers, there'll be enough nooks and crannies left in it to hide any number of abortion mills.

At last report, the president was to get his near-billion for the U.N. in exchange for a ban on any public funds being used to push abortion overseas. But, and there's always a but, the president would be able to waive that provision, as he surely would. If he did, and here's the counter-catch, the $385 million available for abortion programs abroad, a.k.a. family planning, would be cut, though it's not clear by how much.

Tell us again, Mr. Speaker, about how all these parameters are tied down. Right now they seem as slippery as a carload of eels, or even this president.

A lot of tricky negotiating still lies ahead, and it's possible that our simple, always plain-spoken president will trick Congress again, and enjoy it. Which is what he did when Congress demanded that he set up an independent agency to protect the country's nuclear secrets. He signed the bill in order to get the appropriation for the Defense Department, then turned around and appointed the same old officials, the very ones who had let the secrets leak, to the top positions in this ``new, independent'' intelligence agency. Slick.

Slick Willie may be up to something like that in this tricky case -- a way to accept the congressional ban on promoting abortion overseas without accepting it. It wouldn't surprise me -- or anybody by now. He's quite capable of pulling off something like that, and laughing about it later. And the GOP has proven remarkably easy to bamboozle in negotiations over the budget.

The president may agree to sign this bill, but only if it includes a clinton clause allowing him to waive its provisions with no penalty -- in the interests of ``national security'' or some equally elastic phrase. The only bar to any agreement with Bill Clinton is the English language. And plain dealing. It isn't easy pinning down a president who will argue about what (ital)is(unital) is. This president is as slippery as a razorback on ice.

Dennis Hastert had better make sure those parameters of his are locked up, tucked in, hamstrung and guarded 'round the clock ... or they'll be gone by morning, when Bill Clinton will explain that they never existed in the first place. There ain't a parameter yet written that this boy couldn't, uh, adjust. Especially where abortion is concerned. Does he even use the word anymore when arguing for it?

Abortion remains unmentionable in American society, but only by those who favor it. Instead, they advocate population control, family planning, early termination, reproductive freedom, choice, anything but what they're advocating.

Just the other morning, the mail brought a mailing from the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, which is a lot tonier name than Deathworks, and it never used the word abortion -- except in quotation marks. The last thing the abortion lobby wants to do is call something by its right name.

Euphemism long ago became the lingua franca of this culture of death, and Bill Clinton speaks it fluently. Besides, for this president to simply agree to pay our dues, and accept the congressional language that bars funding for abortion, would defy the one contemporary taboo this administration has always respected: faith in life.

Paul Greenberg Archives


©1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate