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Last-minute pro-life push

The Trump administration further restricts overseas abortion funding

President Donald Trump speaks at the March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington in January. Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky (file)

Last-minute pro-life push

President Donald Trump began purging foreign assistance for abortions during his first week in office in 2016. He reinstated the Mexico City policy, which says recipients of about $600 million in international family planning funds cannot refer for or perform abortions. Then he expanded the rule to include all global health assistance by U.S. government departments and agencies, worth $9 billion in grants and cooperative agreements. Now, the Trump administration wants to widen the scope of the policy further to apply to foreign contractors.

“We keep finding places where abortion has slid in where it didn’t seem to fit,” said Katie Glenn, government affairs counsel for Americans United for Life.

The Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and NASA proposed the expansion of the Mexico City policy to foreign contractors last week. Though the agencies don’t have obvious connections to foreign health aid, they likely hold contracts with international groups that, for example, help promote the health of overseas employees, according to Connor Semelsberger, a legislative assistant at the Family Research Council. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates such contracts account for about 40 percent of global health funding. This rule would prevent those healthcare providers from participating in abortions.

President Ronald Reagan first introduced the Mexico City policy in 1984. Since then, every Democratic president has repealed it and every Republican president has reinstated it.

“All the data bears out that American taxpayers … don’t want to be paying for [abortion] with government money,” Glenn said.

Because of the lengthy process involved in updating federal regulations, Semelsberger said the new pro-life rule likely would not take effect if Trump lost the election. The 60-day public comment period is set to end on Nov. 13, 10 days after Election Day. The administration potentially could enact the rule despite a loss in November, but “it would be a tight window to get it done,” Semelsberger said, and any future administration could go through the same formal rule-making process to reverse it. He pointed out that the White House might be taking this action now to show voters that Trump needs more time to pursue his pro-life goals: “It’s very easy to just put the initial policy in place. … It’s just restoring something that’s already been in place. It takes a lot of internal work and political willpower to further protect life.”

Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.



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