Two groups yesterday charged that antiabortion guidelines drawn up by the Agency for International Development threaten to destroy an international family-planning network that has taken more than 20 years to develop.
In a joint statement, the Population Crisis Committee and the Alan Guttmacher Institute said the rules attempt to make foreign groups "tools of the [Reagan] administration's antiabortion campaign" and "threaten a substantial part of the basic family-planning infrastructure in Third World countries."
The guidelines prohibit private foreign organizations from receiving U.S. family-planning funds if they perform or promote abortions, even if such activities are sanctioned by their governments.
The controversial policy was announced in August at a U.N. population conference in Mexico City, but the guidelines implementing it were not circulated until recently.
Meanwhile, AID has denied a $12 million grant to the London-based International Planned Parenthood Federation, which refused to make an antiabortion pledge, and has frozen a $46 million grant to the U.N. Fund for Population Activities while it reviews the agency's role in abortion activities in China.
The guidelines have been sent to U.S. missions abroad and are to be included in family-planning contracts as they come up for renewal.
Richard Derham, assistant AID administrator for policy, said the guidelines are negotiable and that the agency does not expect them to cause widespread "displacements" in family-planning programs.
"The groups that are complaining are advocacy groups," he said. "I think they are overreacting."
AID remains committed to family-planning programs, he said. "I'm getting very tired of the canard that we're not."
The guidelines make private foreign groups, including those that subcontract with U.S. groups and universities, ineligible for AID assistance if they perform abortions or distribute information about abortion. The only abortions exempted are those that are required to save the mother's life.
"Apparently the administration is prepared to censor free speech abroad as long as the issue is abortion, and expects U.S. organizations to police this policy," the two groups said, adding that the guidelines jeopardize up to $80 million worth of family-planning activities around the globe.
The groups said bookkeeping requirements laid out in the guidelines would be difficult for many private family-planning agencies in underdeveloped countries to meet.
"A lot of them will get out of the abortion business," said Jeannie Rosoff, president of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a private research group. "But they will also get out of the family-planning business. Groups will disappear that it has taken AID 20 years to develop."
She said the guidelines are part of a White House effort to give President Reagan's antiabortion allies a "political victory abroad."