On his first full day in office, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that blocks international global health groups from receiving millions in US taxpayer dollars if they promote or perform abortion.
Undeterred by a large women’s protest in Washington DC the day after being sworn in as the nations 45th president, Trump used his executive powers to change course on US global health assistance from promoting abortion to prioritizing health interventions that safeguard the lives of women and children.
“I am delighted that this long-standing pro-life foreign aid restriction has been reapplied by President Trump,” Senator Mike Lee said. Lee and several Republican senators issued a resolution last Friday supporting the reinstating of an expanded Mexico City Policy and legislative action to permanently codify into law.
“Not only has it been reapplied; it has been modernized to take into account the current global health foreign aid environment and will be inclusive of other US foreign aid funding sources beyond simply the USAID family planning account.”
The executive action will prevent international non-government organizations (NGOs) that promote, lobby or perform abortions from being eligible for U.S. foreign assistance even if they use non-US funding for this purpose. Current statutory limitations prohibit funding overseas abortions through the 1973 Helms amendment to the US foreign aid law. That restriction covers abortion only and not the proliferation of abortion policy occurring through the efforts of these groups.
President Trump’s memorandum directs the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, “to the extent allowable by law, to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.”
The application appears to cover all State Department global health grants and contracts, totaling more than $9 billion. The expansion was made necessary due to the Obama administration streamlining sexual and reproductive health in sectors where it had never been. Population policy programs are now funded through nutrition, environment, food security, defense and HIV/AIDs programs often preventing faith-based groups from qualifying.
Marie Stopes International, the largest UK-based abortion provider said they would end their partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) forfeiting any new funding to continue performing abortion.
“This is the most extreme executive order that we have ever seen, in the global health space, under any Republican administration,” a Planned Parenthood spokesperson said.
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the international arm of Planned Parenthood, estimates a loss of $100 million in U.S. grants by not complying. In 2015 IPPF reported ending the lives of 1 million unborn children. IPPF operates clinics in all African countries though abortion is restricted in most. There the group works to change laws through lobbying efforts.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) citing debunked statistics of abortion increasing when the Mexico City Policy is instituted introduced legislation to permanently repeal the policy though the current congressional landscape makes this unlikely. Congresswoman Nita Lowey introduced the House counterpart, known as “The Her Act.”
The Mexico City Policy had previously been limited to family planning assistance amounting to over $600M administered through USAID despite the fact that women in developing countries report near universal saturation. Much of the funding was funneled to foreign organizations working to obstruct pro-life laws and institutionalize abortion services under the exceptions allowed by law.
Trump’s action follows what has become a first-day-in-office political tradition followed by Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama whereby US funding of abortion overseas is either allowed or blocked.
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