- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Trump administration doubled down Tuesday on its efforts to silence the “global abortion industry,” expanding an existing ban on financing nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion to include foreign entities that lobby for pro-choice policies.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Tuesday morning that he had directed the State Department to prevent any of $9 billion in foreign aid from going to groups that support pro-abortion initiatives — an expansion of the so-called “Mexico City Policy” that was first implemented by President Reagan and prohibits U.S. aid for abortions in foreign countries.

“In light of recent evidence of abortion-related advocacy by an organ of the Organization of American States, I directed my team to include a provision in foreign assistance agreements with the OAS that explicitly prohibits the use of funds to lobby for or against abortion,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Later Tuesday, a State Department spokesman elaborated to reporters, saying the U.S. would withhold $210,000 from the OAS for “certain activity” by its Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He said the commission had violated the Siljander Amendment, a 1981 measure that bars foreign aid for groups that lobby for abortion.

“We’ve been aware that this has been part of the conversation in the U.S. for a few months now [but] I don’t know what exactly they might’ve looked at,” Maria Rivero, a spokeswoman for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, told The Washington Times.

Ms. Rivero cited a December letter that eight U.S. senators, including Republican Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Joni Ernst of Iowa, sent to the State Department that said the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on Women “aggressively lobby pro-life sovereign nations to legalize abortion.”

As for the Inter-American Commission’s lobbying, Ms. Rivero pointed to public statements the group has made over the last two years that have espoused views on abortion:

In October 2017, a press release quoted Margarette May Macaulay, the organization’s rapporteur on the rights of women, as saying, “It is important to draw attention to the difficulties women, girls and adolescents continue to face to obtain access to various sexual and reproductive health services.”

A September 2017 release welcomed the Chilean government’s decision to decriminalize abortion for rape, the life of the mother and fetal viability.

A March 7, 2018, statement welcomed El Salvador’s decision to commute the sentence of Teodora del Carmen Vasquez, who was imprisoned for 10 years after her miscarriage.

Asked if the State Department — which pushed for creating the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights — is shortchanging health care aid in pursuit of an ideological victory, department spokesman Robert Palladino said, “We see no inconsistencies.”

Pro-life activists cheered the announcement, saying it represents another bolstering of pro-life policies they see as a hallmark of the Trump administration.

“Money is fungible and we are excited to see Secretary Pompeo taking additional steps to ensure that Americans’ hard-earned dollars are actually used for health assistance, not funneled to groups that push abortion,” the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List said in an email.

Pro-choice supporters criticized the policy expansion as endangering the lives of women abroad.

“Further expanding the Global Gag Rule puts international organizations in an impossible position: provide women the full scope of reproductive health care services or deny critical funding that saves lives. That is unconscionable,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, said in a statement.

• Christopher Vondracek can be reached at cvondracek@washingtontimes.com.

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