The Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy Is Vital

Outside the State Department Building in Washington, D.C. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
The policy must be maintained to keep U.S. foreign assistance firmly focused on the provision of real health care.

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Department of State released its second review on the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (PLGHA), which expands the Mexico City Policy that prevents the U.S. from funding abortion overseas. For years, critics have claimed that this policy would limit not just “reproductive health care,” but also legitimate global-health efforts abroad. The latest report definitively refutes erroneous claims that pro-life foreign aid detracts from global-health goals.

President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy just three days after taking office, and he expanded on that policy with the PLGHA in May 2017. The PLGHA’s stated purpose is “to prevent American taxpayers from subsidizing abortion” — a crucial prerogative of pro-life Americans. It is designed to ensure that all U.S. government departments and agencies refrain from awarding global-health funding to foreign non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning. It also prevents U.S. organizations receiving government money from making sub-awards to foreign abortion organizations. The PLGHA protects state sovereignty, as recipient organizations often operate in countries where abortion is illegal or highly restricted.

In its review, the State Department found that a “prime partner” of the U.S. government declined assistance in only eight instances, compared to 1,340 awards between May 2017 and September 2018. This reveals that over 99 percent of organizations that receive U.S. global-health assistance are willing to work within the regulations of the PLGHA — evidence of the policy’s considerable impact for defending unborn life.

Contrary to the argument that pro-life foreign-assistance restrictions impose undue ideological constraints on the conferral of U.S. aid, thereby jeopardizing human lives, the State Department findings make clear that the policy is working as intended: toward genuine global-health goals. Abortion organizations are indeed penalized to protect the health of unborn children, and organizations that focus on authentic health are in no way disadvantaged. In fact, the policy allows the entirety of U.S. funding to go toward actual health care where it is most needed, rather than misdirected to pay for abortions in the developing world. And the policy does not reduce the amount of global-health assistance that the U.S. government makes available overall.

Global-health assistance includes funding for HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, nutrition, infectious diseases, global-health security, and (legitimate) reproductive health. Notably, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Marie Stopes International (MSI) declined to agree to the PLGHA and forfeited U.S. funding. Both organizations claim to have suffered financial losses, with IPPF noting a potential loss of $100 million, and MSI stating it faces a $50 million funding gap. As the State Department highlights, these decisions by IPPF and MSI are unsurprising given their goal to assert a global right to abortion on demand.

The report also details USAID efforts to redirect IPPF and MSI funding to other qualified organizations that conduct legitimate reproductive health work, as opposed to abortions. It states that USAID plans to “deepen health investments” in particular regions, to ensure the continued prioritization of real health care. However, given the lack of transparency and frequent co-mingling of funds, especially in situations of humanitarian emergency, the U.S. government must carefully check for illicit abortion promotion. This is especially important as evidence mounts that the United Nations is channeling COVID-19 relief to push abortion liberalization where illegal, including through the provision of box abortion kits as part of its “Minimum Initial Service Package.”

In large part due to their symbiotic relationship with the U.N., IPPF and MSI have been able to continue their activities without U.S. support. This does not diminish the pro-life impact of the PLGHA, but it does indicate the critical importance of ensuring accountability wherever U.S. funds are awarded. Furthermore, this proves the importance of the U.S. decision to defund U.N. bodies such as the UN Population Fund and the World Health Organization, which would have continued using U.S. money for abortion promotion.

The report reiterates President Trump’s 2019 U.N. address in which he noted, “Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life [ . . . and] we in America believe that every child — born and unborn — is a sacred gift from God.” The PLGHA provides essential parameters to ensure respect not only for the millions of Americans staunchly opposed to the killing of unborn life, but also for those suffering from urgent health needs around the world who rely on American assistance for relief.

The PLGHA is one of many hugely impactful pro-life commitments that hangs in the balance with the upcoming election. The policy must be maintained to keep U.S. foreign assistance firmly focused on the provision of real health care.

Elyssa Koren is the director of United Nations advocacy in New York City for Alliance Defending Freedom International.


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