by Fred Lucas
Several Christian organizations have supported full authorization of an AIDS relief program even though the money has gone to organizations that advocate more abortions abroad.
In several public statements, President Joe Biden’s White House has called for promoting abortion abroad, frequently in references to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, better known as PEPFAR.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the sponsor of reauthorizing PEPFAR in 2018, said the Biden administration “hijacked” the AIDS relief program to promote abortion. Smith is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on global health, global human rights, and international organizations.
Smith’s office documented that two dozen nonprofit organizations with PEPFAR authorizing explicitly advocated abortion. They include the Population Council, which got $1.2 million in 2021 and 2022 and lists “safe abortion” as a top priority, and Population Services International, which got $96.5 million in 2021 and 2022 and devotes a website page to reproductive choice with numerous references to abortion.
Although money from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief isn’t used directly for abortion, it is used by certain nonprofit groups that advocate the global expansion of abortion, noted Lisa Correnti, executive vice president of the Center for Family and Human Rights, or C-Fam.
“We all support PEPFAR. We just don’t want the money to go to abortion advocacy groups that are gaining a bigger role in foreign policy,” Correnti told The Daily Signal. “Abortion groups have become very sophisticated. They used to be only involved in family planning, but over the years have successfully integrated HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, water and sanitation, and other programs where large amounts of federal money is available.”
She added that the “simple fix” would be to apply the principles of the so-called Mexico City policy, which prohibits federal funds from promoting abortion abroad, to PEPFAR.
“If Democrats insist that authorizing is not going to abortion groups, then the implementation of the policy will have no change,” Correnti said.
Nevertheless, Christian organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals and World Vision, as well as popular Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay Warren, signed onto a coalition letter in late October that was circulated by the George W. Bush Institute to urge Congress to fully fund the AIDS program.
On Wednesday evening, a State Department spokesperson said the agency’s Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy was working on a response to The Daly Signal’s reporting and would provide it Thursday.
World Vision and the Warrens did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Signal on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“It is one of the most successful international development programs since World War II,” the coalition letter to Congress from the Bush Institute, the 43rd president’s charitable foundation, says. The coalition includes more than 30 organizations and individuals as signatories in support of PEPFAR.
“Abandoning it abruptly now would send a bleak message, suggesting we are no longer able to set aside our politics for the betterment of democracies and the world,” the letter says. “It would also undo the tremendous progress we have made, threatening the reemergence of HIV/AIDS as an existential threat.”
A spokesperson for the National Association of Evangelicals referred The Daily Signal to past statements by the group, including the Bush Institute letter. The NAE, along with the World Evangelical Alliance, also commended a letter from 350 African churches that said: “We assure the United States Congress that the claim that PEPFAR supports or promotes abortion is to us strange, unfounded, and unfortunate.”
Biden’s ‘Reimagined’ PEPFAR
The House approved an emergency measure, authorizing PEPFAR for one year, that steers clear of potential abortion authorizing. The program normally is reauthorized for five years.
“Regrettably, PEPFAR has been reimagined—hijacked—by the Biden administration to empower pro-abortion international nongovernmental organizations, deviating from its life-affirming work,” Smith said in a floor speech in late September, after passage of the measure. “Thankfully, the House has voted to reject Biden’s new PEPFAR abortion promotion strategy and increase spending for its lifesaving programs while ensuring key pro-life protections.”
The New Jersey Republican was referring to the Biden administration’s State Department report, “Reimagining PEPFAR’s Strategic Direction,” which makes numerous references to “reproductive rights.”
PEPFAR, established by President George W. Bush, previously had consistent bipartisan support. However, the State Department issued its “reimagining” report months after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sent the abortion issue back to the states.
“Where possible, PEPFAR will integrate HIV programming into strengthened public health systems to manage tuberculosis, high burden non-communicable diseases, sexual reproductive health, rights and services, as well as other local health priorities that impact PLHIV–to protect HIV/AIDS gains and strengthen health and economic outcomes,” the State Department report says.
The report is measured enough not to use the word “abortion” directly, but makes additional references to promoting “reproductive rights” as part of combating the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The State Department report adds: “Leverage the very best of American ingenuity, including the scientific community, academic institutions, the diaspora, and faith- and community-based organizations and strengthen coordination between PEPFAR and other U.S. government global health and development programs, including for tuberculosis, malaria, sexual and reproductive health and rights (i.e., sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, HIV prevention and testing, gender-based violence support), gender equality, LGBTQI+, and human rights.”
Biden’s Abortion Agenda Abroad
Days after his inauguration as president on Jan. 20, 2021, Biden issued a memorandum “to support women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as globally.”
The memo said the U.S. would resume authorizing for the United Nations Population Fund, which works closely with the International Planned Parenthood Federation on HIV/AIDS programs.
Five months later, on June 30, 2021, the Biden administration announced that it would advance “sexual and reproductive health services in Haiti and 14 African countries.”
The White House announced a “comprehensive agenda to advance gender equity” on Oct. 22, 2021, committing to “defend the constitutional right to safe and legal abortion in the United States, established in [the 1973 Supreme Court decision] Roe v. Wade, and promote access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.”
A State Department spokesperson did not respond to The Daily Signal for this story, but told Time that non-reauthorization will not “jeopardize PEPFAR’s operations” during fiscal year 2024, which ends on Sept. 30, 2024, and said, “PEPFAR has sufficient funding available to cover most PEPFAR-supported operations, pending timely completion of required Congressional notification procedures.”
PEPFAR Recipients Advocate Abortion
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation got $278.6 million in PEPFAR authorizing, according to Smith’s office. The foundation has staunchly opposed the Mexico City policy preventing U.S. tax dollars from promoting abortion abroad.
In 2021, the organization praised Biden for ending that policy.
“President Biden recently repealed the damaging Mexico City Policy, a policy that blocks foreign aid to international organizations who use non-U.S. funds to provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion in their own country,” the Pediatric AIDS Foundation said. “Also known as the ‘Global Gag Rule,’ the Mexico City Policy causes significant harm by limiting interfering with the doctor-patient relationship and impeding women’s access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.”
Abt Associates, which got $113.1 million in PEPFAR authorizing in 2021 and 2022, issued a statement in June 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned its Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion.
“We know this decision undermines progress towards gender and racial equity,” Abt Associates President and CEO Kathleen Flanagan said in a public statement. “For 57 years, we have worked to close the gaps in health equity in the U.S. and around the world. That has always meant supporting the policies and systems that protect and expand access to safe, affordable, high-quality reproductive health care.”
Family Health International got $426.2 million in PEPFAR grants in 2021 and 2022.
“This organization similarly blasted the [Supreme Court’s] Dobbs decision,” Family Health International said in a written statement in June 2022. “This decision restricts the rights and agency of women and people who can become pregnant, and, as evidence clearly indicates, will exacerbate growing disparities in access to reproductive health care in the United States.”
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Fred Lucas is chief news correspondent and manager of the Investigative Reporting Project for The Daily Signal. Lucas is also the author of “The Myth of Voter Suppression: The Left’s Assault on Clean Elections.”