June 22, 2007 / 6:38 PM / 10 years ago

Lawmaker urges condoms for border control

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A congressman is pushing a not-so-quick fix in the debate over illegal immigrants from Mexico: free contraceptives.

"A slower rate of growth of Mexico's population would improve the economy of Mexico. It would also reduce the environmental pressure on Mexico's ecosystem. But a slower rate of growth would also reduce the long-term illegal immigration pressure on America's borders," reasoned Rep. Mark Kirk, who also supports stronger border security in the short-term.

In reality, fertility rates have plunged in Mexico since 1980, when an average couple would have five or more children. Now, the country's fertility rate has dropped to 2.5 children, compared to 2.1 for the United States, according to United Nations data.

Kirk, an Illinois Republican, made the argument on Thursday during a heated debate in the House of Representatives over whether the U.S. government should be allowed to donate condoms and other contraceptives to family planning agencies abroad that also engage in abortion.

The proposal was narrowly approved by the House, over the protests of anti-abortion lawmakers who prefer sex abstinence education. The measure faces a veto threat from the White House.

Kirk, who attended college in Mexico and holds a master's degree from the London School of Economics, may have offered an idea that might appeal to some fiscal conservatives.

Shipping condoms to the poor in Mexico could be cheaper than the multibillion-dollar fence being constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniels in Mexico City

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