Lawmakers Spar Over Abortion in Global Health Assistance

By | February 14, 2020

WASHINGTON DC, February 14 (C-Fam) At a hearing on Capitol Hill last week, Democrats failed to prove that women’s health is compromised by President Trump’s pro-life foreign policy.

The hearing, meant to justify Democrat plans to pass the Global Health Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act next month would permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, which bars U.S. taxpayer funding to foreign organizations performing or promoting abortion.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), an abortion advocate, criticized the policy, now called the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy, as “devastating” because it redirects funding away from “some of our most important partners overseas,” that perform abortions and other services.

President Trump expanded the policy, implemented by Republican presidents since 1984, from bilateral family planning only to all global health, some $8.8B. At a six month review the U.S. Agency for International Development said that only four organizations chose not to comply.

A panel of global health experts testified but did not produce data indicating that women have been harmed by the policy. A representative from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which supports abortion rights, noted only a preliminary impact study that examined abortion laws in the 64 countries receiving U.S. global health funding.

The study showed that the policy only affects 37 of those 64 countries. That is because the policy allows funding for abortions in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother, and 37 countries have laws that allow abortion beyond those reasons.

In the other 27 countries abortion groups can, and likely do, receive funding for their work even though they are promoting and performing abortions.

The Kaiser representative failed to comment on the 27 countries that will not be impacted by the policy, countries that have abortion laws only for those exceptions. These 27 countries accounted for 47% of U.S. bilateral global health assistance in 2016.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) dismissed the policy’s detractors for spreading misinformation for political gain. “The only organizations to not receive funding under PLGHA are those who have chosen not to accept the policy restrictions that come with U.S. assistance. It means we are using resources for the healthcare and lifesaving care of both women and children,” continued the pro-life mother of three.

In his opening remarks the chairman of the panel, Eliot Engel(D-NY), emphasized the importance of family planning for the economic empowerment of women and reduction of maternal mortality. If there are fewer pregnancies, then fewer women will die in childbirth, according to this reasoning. Pro-life advocates argue that avoiding birth is not enough, and that birth should be made safer for mother and child.

Engel also defended U.S. support for the controversial UN Population Fund despite its involvement in coerced family planning in China. The Trump administration defunded the UN agency citing a domestic law that precludes U.S funding of organizations that use coercive family planning methods.

Congressman Chris Smith(R-NJ), longtime member of the House subcommittee for Global Health and Africa said all funding forfeited by UNFPA remains earmarked for family planning and maternal health. He said previous implementation of the Mexico City Policy found wide acceptance among healthcare providers with 99.5% accepting the pro-life guidelines.

“Abortion is both a symptom and a tool for the oppression of women,” said Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO). Wagner cited statistics that 126 million women are demographically missing around the world due to sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, and gender-based violence against young girls.