Communications Department

National Right to Life heralds Trump Administration’s modernization of pro-life foreign aid policy

May 15, 2017 | 2017 Press Releases

WASHINGTON – The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) commended the Trump Administration for announcing an expanded policy named Promoting Life in Global Health Assistance, which will apply pro-life conditions to a broad range of health-related U.S. foreign aid – a policy signaled in a January presidential order and explained in more detail by the State Department today.

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, the federation of state right-to-life organizations, said, “Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. foreign aid program was hijacked to promote abortion worldwide. We commend President Trump and his appointees for taking steps to ensure that U.S. taxpayer funds are directed through organizations that work to preserve human life, not to take it.”

The policy at issue was originally announced by the Reagan Administration in 1984 at an international population conference in Mexico City, and therefore until now it has been officially known as the Mexico City Policy. That policy required that, in order to be eligible for certain types of foreign aid, a private organization must sign a contract promising not to perform abortions (except to save the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest), not to lobby to change the abortion laws of host countries, and not to otherwise “actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” The Mexico City Policy has been adopted by each Republican president since, and rescinded by each Democratic president.

Under previous Republican presidents, the policy applied to family planning programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department. However, in the decades since 1984, a number of new health-related foreign assistance programs have been created, under which the U.S. provides support to private organizations that interact with many women of childbearing age in foreign nations. All too many of these organizations have incorporated promotion of abortion into their programs – even in nations which have laws that provide legal protection to unborn children.

When President Trump reinstated the pro-life policy on January 23, he also instructed the Secretary of State “to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.”

Today, the State Department announced the implementation of the President’s directive. The expanded policy will reach to a substantially expanded array of overseas health programs, including those dealing with HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and malaria, and including some programs operated by the Defense Department. The policy will not apply to disaster-relief and humanitarian-relief programs, nor to direct aid to foreign governments and multi-lateral organizations.

The family planning programs previously covered were funded in the range of $500-600 million annually. The current aggregate funding for the programs covered by the expanded policy is about $8.8 billion annually, according to the State Department.

As in the past, the pro-life policy will not result in any reduction of spending in any of the programs covered. When an organization decides to refuse funds (generally, because it has an ideological commitment to promoting abortion as just one more method of birth control), the declined funds are re-directed to compliant organizations that provide services of the same type.

Over the years, various “studies” have purported to show that the pro-life policy has increased the abortion rate in certain countries, ostensibly by reducing the amount of contraceptive assistance provided by specific organizations that declined to accept U.S. funds under the policy. The structural bias of such studies is generally evident: they typically gloss over the ideological commitment to abortion that produces non-compliance decisions by some organizations, and blame the U.S. policy rather than the voluntary noncompliance decisions for the claimed subsequent local diminishment of services. Also typically excluded from analysis is the impact of the re-directed funds where they actually are used.

Founded in 1968, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of 50 state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization. Recognized as the flagship of the pro-life movement, NRLC works through legislation and education to protect innocent human life from abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.