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U.S. expands ban on overseas abortion funding

WASHINGTON (BP) — The U.S. will strengthen and expand a policy withholding federal funds from overseas groups that offer or promote abortions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday (March 26).

Called the Mexico City Policy, it was crafted during the Reagan administration and renewed under President Donald Trump requiring nongovernmental overseas aid and health organizations to abandon abortion procedures and counseling in order to receive U.S. funds designated for family planning.

“The American people should rest assured that this administration — and this State Department, and our USAID — will do all we can to safeguard U.S. taxpayer dollars and protect and respect the sanctity of life for people all around the globe,” Pompeo said in press briefing at the White House. “This is decent; this is right…. American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions.”

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is among organizations applauding Pompeo’s efforts.

“It is a national disgrace for a single penny of federal monies to be used in funding abortion,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press. “One important stopgap in this assault on the vulnerable has been the Mexico City Policy. I was pleased to see this policy reinstated by President Trump in 2017 and am thankful again to see Secretary Pompeo supplement the Mexico City Policy with additional restrictions at the State Department.”

Under Pompeo’s expanded enforcement of the Mexico City Policy, the U.S. will refuse assistance not only to health and aid groups supporting or offering abortions, but also to foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that fund such groups. Pompeo described such NGO funding as “backdoor funding schemes and end-runs” around the Mexico City Policy.

Pompeo said the U.S. also will strengthen enforcement of the Siljander Amendment, a federal law that prohibits the use of federal funding including foreign assistance to cover the cost of lobbying for or against abortion.

“In light of recent evidence of abortion-related advocacy by an organ of the Organization of American States,” Pompeo said, “I directed my team to include a provision in foreign assistance agreements with the OAS that explicitly prohibits the use of funds to lobby for or against abortion.”

The U.S. will reduce funding to the OAS, he said, to equal “the estimated U.S. share of possible OAS expenditures on these abortion-related activities.” The reduction would total $210,000, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino told CNN.

Moore described Pompeo’s announcement as “a major move in the right direction.”

“What is most needed is legislation permanently ending the morally repugnant practice of federally-sponsored predation,” Moore said. “Until we get there, though, every public official should do everything in his or her power to see that taxpayer dollars never subsidize the exploitation of the vulnerable.”

National Right to Life also welcomed the move.

“By ensuring enforcement and compliance with existing pro-life policies,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said in a press release, “Secretary of State Pompeo and the Trump Administration reaffirm their commitment to protecting innocent human life at home and abroad.”

Tobias applauded Pompeo “for his dedicated pro-life leadership and for his efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund or promote abortion overseas.”

Americans United for Life (AUL) and the Family Research Council issued similar statements.

“For too long, the Organization of American States and pro-abortion extremist organizations like International Planned Parenthood Federation have bullied member states into accepting abortion on demand as an international norm, in spite of their dearly held cultural and religious convictions against destroying human life,” AUL President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster said. “Today’s announcement that the State Department will strictly enforce the Mexico City Policy and the Siljander Amendment is a tremendous victory for international women’s health and the rule of law.”

Pompeo disagreed with data that the Mexico City Policy has led to more abortions in certain foreign markets because the reduction in funding has hampered economically disadvantaged women from receiving birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“They’re just wrong about that,” Pompeo said at the White House. “This argument has been presented for an awfully long time, and they’re just factually wrong about that. The moneys that this administration is providing for global health remain.

“We’re working alongside those NGOs that do some phenomenal work,” Pompeo said, “and the theory that somehow not protecting every human life is destroying human life is perverse on its face.”

Enacted in 1984, the Mexico City Policy was rescinded by presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but reenacted by presidents George W. Bush and Trump.

In related news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanded that Aid Access, a Dutch abortion group founded in 2018, stop mailing abortion-inducing drugs to women in the U.S., WORLD Magazine reported March 25. The FDA accused Aid Access of selling “misbranded and unapproved new drugs” online.

“FDA requests that you immediately cease causing the introduction of these violative drugs into U.S. commerce,” WORLD quoted from the FDA’s letter to Aid Access. “Failure to correct these violations may result in FDA regulatory action, including seizure or injunction, without further notice.”