ANALYSIS: “Keeping Girls in School Act” has Little to Do with Keeping Girls in School

By | August 4, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 5 (C-Fam) There was an eerie silence, a feeling of apprehension in the House Foreign Affairs Committee as Congressman Gregory Meeks called for comments on the “Keeping Girls in School Act” last week.

The Democrat from Ohio may have been expecting a pro-life objection to the foreign aid bill (H. R. 4134). Maybe he paused simply to emphasize his triumph over pro-lifers. Either way, Republicans raised no objection.

Republicans were satisfied with a few technical amendments to strip the bill of explicit mentions of Obama-era strategies for foreign aid and United Nations metrics that concerned pro-life legislators. But they did not protest the bill’s main thrust.

The goal of the legislation—to keep girls in school and empower them—is one shared wholeheartedly by all members of Congress. No one could ever object to it. But how the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sets about achieving this goal is another matter entirely. And here is the problem.

No matter the title of the legislation, the “Keeping Girls in School Act” does not address how to keep girls in school. To put it simply, the bill is devoid of substance. It does not list any set of policies, goals, or metrics. Rather, it is a bureaucratic roadmap. It only lays out a process.  It is a strategy document, the specifics of which will not be decided by Congress but by federal and international bureaucrats.

Democratic Congresswomen Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania was candid about this last week.

She said the bill requires USAID to develop a global strategy for adolescent girls with “relevant U.S. government and congressional authorities” as well as the United Nations agencies and civil society “that have expertise in women’s empowerment and gender equality.” This inevitably means the direct intervention by groups like International Planned Parenthood Federation and the UN Agency for Women that tend to dominate this policy space.

With such implementing partners, “Keeping Girls in School” will necessarily involve promoting abortion and long-acting hormonal contraceptive, as well as promoting sexual autonomy and gender ideology in schools. These are all issues of concern to Republican voters and their representatives.

The bill requires an update to the highly controversial U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, one of the more aggressively pro-abortion strategies of the Obama administration. Whether or not it is mentioned expressly in the bill, the Obama-era document will remain the starting point for implementing this legislation, and in this regard, pro-life Senators should take note of its contents.

Houlahan herself implied that abortion and contraception would be part of addressing “early pregnancy and motherhood” under the bill. The Obama strategy goes even further. It places “sexual and reproductive health and rights” at the heart of empowering girls, including by “removing barriers to sexual and reproductive health services and information” and delivering these services and information in a “youth-friendly way” and through “comprehensive sexuality education.”

These code words are widely understood to imply giving access to abortion and contraception to teenagers without parental consent and promoting highly controversial sexuality education programming to teach children that all forms of sexual behavior are morally equivalent and to encourage them to experiment “safely” with sexuality. Such education programming also promotes the use of school counselors to target troubled teenagers with messaging that promotes homosexuality and transgenderism.

The bill is expected to pass the House unanimously and head to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Senators may decide to look closer at the bill, as in 2019, when the bill stalled in the Senate after passing in the House. If Senators decide to look beyond the seemingly uncontroversial text of the bill to how it will be implemented by the federal and international bureaucracy, they may want to debate the merits of this approach to empowering girls, before giving the bureaucrats a blank check. They may want to object to the use of education programming as a tool to indoctrinate children. They could insist that USAID programming should stick to making education accessible and affordable and stay clear of social engineering. Senators may also wish to include pro-life guardrails.