NEW YORK (C-Fam) Acting Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development John Barsa announced a new effort to enforce abortion-related restrictions on foreign assistance in a press release earlier today.
“The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is committed to the well-being of all women and children, and to ensuring all of our partners are in compliance with abortion-related legal restrictions and the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA) Policy,” Barsa said.
Barsa said compliance activities would include “training, implementation, monitoring, and documentation” as well as “possible sanctions and consequences for non-compliance.”
His statement was accompanied by a letter from Dr. Alma Golden, USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health. Her letter reminds funding recipients that longstanding U.S. law—the Helms Amendment—prohibits funding for abortion.
“As a reminder, the statutory restrictions related to abortion apply to all U.S. foreign-assistance funds, not just health funds, including USAID-funded activities implemented by both U.S.- and non-U.S.-based partners,” the letter reads.
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The letter also outlines the expectations of USAID for compliance with the Trump administration’s expanded Mexico City Policy, called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA).
“As a recipient of funding from USAID, your organization must abide by the applicable restrictions set forth in the standard provisions included in your award,” the letter says.
“Your organization must also include these restrictions in sub-awards as required under your USAID agreement, or in any contracts that include grants under contract. Furthermore, we expect your organization to monitor your sub-recipients’ compliance with these restrictions as well,” the letter explains.
For decades, restrictions to prevent U.S. funding for abortion and abortion lobbying activities overseas have largely gone unenforced. They have always been contractual requirements to receive U.S. foreign assistance, but foreign organizations did not have to document compliance with abortion restrictions. All they had to do was pledge not to perform or promote abortion to be eligible for U.S. taxpayer moneys.
Groups that promote and fund abortion with U.S. foreign assistance have been creative in ways that they skirt the policy. Some claim that restrictions do not apply to rape in humanitarian emergencies. Others have ignored the Mexico City Policy or only tenuously made attempts at implementing it. Others have re-structured their activities to exploit loopholes in the policy. Others counted only on sporadic enforcement.
The new policy, which is still being developed, appears to address some of the ways in which organizations that receive U.S. taxpayer funding flout restrictions on U.S. funding for abortion.
Pro-life members of Congress have called on U.S. agencies to address the remaining loopholes in PLGHA. In January, Senator Michael Lee was lead signatory on a letter asking for U.S.-based organizations to be held to the same standard, inasmuch as they were able to channel their funding through foreign affiliates to promote abortion.
Golden’s letter unambiguously reminds U.S.-based organizations that they “are responsible for informing their [foreign-based] sub-recipients of the requirements of the PLGHA Policy, and for ensuring that these sub-recipients comply with the terms of the Policy.”
She asks USAID recipients to report documentary evidence of their compliance efforts with U.S. abortion restrictions by November 30, 2020.
Editor's note: Stefano Gennarini writes for C-Fam. This article was first published by C-Fam (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute. This article appears with permission.