Can’t the Obama Administration understand that its views on “reproductive rights” might not be received too well in Pakistan and Afghanistan? If it is really interested in winning hearts and minds there, surely it needs to exercise some cultural sensitivity. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed oblivious to this when Planned Parenthood Federation of America gave her a Margaret Sanger Award, its highest honour, on March 27. Apart from announcing a US$50 million grant to the United Nations for family planning, she insisted that:

… as we integrate our military and civilian aspects with a mission of disrupting and dismantling and defeating al-Qaida and their allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we cannot lose sight of the fact that assisting women’s development in those two countries is part of America’s strategy to be successful in our mission.

It’s not clear from this whether development aid will be conditional upon accepting family planning and abortion facilities in these countries. However, Secretary Clinton told her audience that

“reproductive rights and the umbrella issue of women’s rights and empowerment will be a key to the foreign policy of this Administration. You see, I believe that women’s rights and empowerment is an indispensable ingredient of smart power and therefore is integrated into our renewed emphasis on diplomacy and development.”.

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.