The United States is one of the most generous countries in the entire world. Every year, billions of U.S. funds, food and supplies go to countries around the world that are impoverished or struggling in the aftermath of devastating natural disasters. These funds, funneled and controlled by USAID and the Department of State, have made the U.S. a leader in disaster relief and humanitarian development.
USAID is an incredibly important program that functions both as a humanitarian and political effort, but there is one thing that these international programs generally are not supposed to support: Abortion. Since the Reagan era, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive funds or support from USAID are not allowed to perform, fund or refer women for abortions. It is called the Mexico City Policy.
Although initially enacted by President Ronald Reagan, the policy is usually enforced only by Republican Presidents and then rescinded under Democratic leadership. When Donald Trump assumed the presidency, he reinstated the Mexico City Policy and pursued a pro-life policy, but there was one problem.
The U.S. was still funding the Organization of American States, which for the last several years has been campaigning for the legalization of abortion across Central and South America.
This was clear violation of not only the Mexico City Policy, but of the Siljander Amendment. A rather obscure part of USAID law, the Siljander Amendment prohibits U.S. funds from going to any organization that is lobbying a foreign government for or against abortion.
A couple of months ago, certain pro-life Senators recognized this discrepancy with regards to the Siljander Amendment and OAS and lobbied Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reexamine the issue. He did, and on March 26 announced changes.
Perhaps the largest change is the decrease in funding towards OAS, which is an ally in regional efforts to help stabilize countries like Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua but is also using its substantial U.S. funding to advocate and lobby South and Central American governments to legalize abortion. The generosity of the American people should not be used to lobby sovereign governments for abortion. This is against U.S. policy, and Secretary Pompeo was right to withhold some of their funding.
The other aspect of Secretary Pompeo’s announcement is the decision to defund nongovernmental organizations that finance organizations that promote or provide abortions as a method of family planning. This is an expansion of the Mexico City Policy and will defund a variety of organizations that want to comply with the policy to continue their USAID funding while simultaneously financing abortion efforts in other organizations. Now that loophole is closed.
“The American people should rest assured that this administration, and this State Department and our USAID will do all we can to safeguard US taxpayer dollars and protect and respect the sanctity of life for people all around the globe,” Secretary Mike Pompeo said.
This is a great victory in international efforts to protect and promote life principles. Abortion does not prevent societal problems or reduce poverty, and it will not lead to the strengthening of families.
In Uganda, I had the privilege of meeting several South Sudanese refugees, many of whom fled unspeakable violence and instability in their war-torn country to find peace in the sprawling refugee camps of neighboring Uganda. Their stories were often harrowing with many walking days or weeks to reach safety, often dodging violent and renegade soldiers along the way.
In many ways, it would’ve been understandable that given the amount of danger that they were in and the difficult conditions of the refugee camps that families would shun outsiders or children who were abandoned or had lost their parents. But they didn’t. Nearly every family I met were sheltering, feeding and clothing children that were separated from their family members, even when they often didn’t have enough food or water for themselves. It was a selfless sacrifice and a recognition of the importance of children and community.
There are some proponents of the abortion movement in the United States that want to spread the culture of abortion to places like Uganda and South Sudan. The recent announcement by Secretary Pompeo will hopefully stop those ambitions in their tracks and instead continue to foster a culture of life throughout the world.