Senate Democrats Want Taxpayer Abortions for Diplomats

By | February 2, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 3 (C-Fam) Senate Democrats have called upon the State Department and USAID to guarantee abortion services for foreign service officers stationed overseas.

In a letter addressed to USAID Administrator Samantha Power and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on January 23, Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-CT), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “…diplomats and other employees of the State Department and USAID working abroad are being routinely denied access to reproductive healthcare.”

They cited a 2021 letter from over 200 female foreign service officers calling for “family planning services, including emergency contraceptives and medical abortion.”

The senators ask that a broad range of “reproductive healthcare” resources be made available through an amendment to the Foreign Affairs Manual. This would result in all “medical units to develop contacts with, and maintain access” to local abortion providers, or, if unavailable due to abortion being illegal in a country, use taxpayer funds to transport employees to a location where an abortion can be provided.

This request seems to undermine the Helms Amendment, which prohibits U.S. funds for foreign operations to pay for the promotion and performance of abortion as a method of family planning. A reform of the Foreign Affairs Manual by codifying abortion for U.S. employees abroad would explicitly defy the pro-life amendment. Abortion advocates have long pressured the Biden administration to redefine the Helms amendment to allow for exceptions. Gutting Helms to include abortion in limited cases would be the only option to fund abortions through the State and Foreign Operations bill which is the funding source for all overseas operations and State Department personnel.

The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) is compiled and published by the State Department and not subject to Congressional approval. The FAM contains all procedures, policies and structures that govern the operations of the State Department, the Foreign Service and “when applicable, other federal agencies” with foreign missions, including USAID. Abortion-friendly changes to the manual would not be monitored or subject to oversight outside of the State Department, allowing for “healthcare” policies that would otherwise be impermissible to many domestic lawmakers.

In the letter, the senators are concerned with a duplicity in foreign affairs, stating that the Biden administration’s National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality’s promotion of “‘sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad’” has not applied the same “rights” it promotes to USAID and State workers who execute the strategy internationally:

“We struggle to reconcile the National Strategy’s vision with the experience of women working for the State Department and USAID who are asked to carry out the important objectives of that strategy and yet lack access to adequate reproductive healthcare themselves.”

Pro-lifers in the international arena say it is disquieting that a domestic strategy promoting abortion is viewed as international by both the Biden administration and Senators Shaheen and Menendez. Further concerns include that in the proposed change, abortion is explicitly determined to be a method of family planning and included in the term “reproductive healthcare.” The senators also describe abortion resources as “adequate,” “appropriate,” and “essential healthcare,” further reaffirming that “healthcare” language in the context of women almost always includes abortion, particularly in federal legislation and strategy documents.