President Joe Biden issued a directive Jan. 28 that resumes funding for organizations that perform and promote abortions overseas and begins a process that will likely result in abortion providers being restored to a federal family planning program to the chagrin but not to the surprise of pro-life advocates.
The new president’s memorandum:
- Revoked what is commonly known as the Mexico City Policy, which bars organizations from receiving federal funds unless they agree not to perform or promote abortions internationally.
- Instructed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to restore funds for the United Nations Population Fund, which has been linked to support of a Chinese population-control program that includes forced abortions and sterilizations.
- Directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider immediately whether to repeal a rule that prohibits Title X family planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortions.
Biden’s executive actions – expected of the longtime Democratic senator and vice president under President Obama – clashed with Trump administration policies supported by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and other pro-life organizations.
With the Mexico City Policy the focus before the memorandum, ERLC President Russell Moore urged the Biden administration “to reconsider and reverse course” regarding its repeal of the ban on funding for organizations that perform or promote international abortions.
“The Mexico City Policy is a common-sense matter that protects conscience freedom by preventing American taxpayer dollars from sponsoring abortions overseas,” Moore said. “Public funds should be invested in efforts that promote human flourishing, not those that exploit women and do violence to preborn children.
“Foreign aid is a vital part of American leadership in the world and should be used to protect life, not end it.”
In a letter Thursday, nearly 120 members of Congress also called for Biden to reconsider his decision and reinstate the pro-life policy.
Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy, said the review of the Title X rule “is a reminder of the work that must be done to disentangle the abortion industry’s exploitation of the vulnerable from legitimate health care. This review should come back with a resounding conclusion that the conscientious objections of millions of Americans to taxpayer-funded abortion should be respected.”
It is expected, however, the administration will restore Title X funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
Abortion rights leaders applauded Biden’s memorandum.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), said on Twitter, “Today, we celebrate these initial steps on the path towards reclaiming full ownership over our bodies, our health, and our futures. We’re grateful @POTUS & @VP have begun to right the wrongs of the last four years – but this is only the beginning.”
Biden’s executive actions on abortion occurred the same day as Evangelicals for Life, an annual, pro-life conference hosted by the ERLC.
They also took place less than a week after Vice President Kamala Harris and he affirmed their commitment to abortion rights in a statement issued Jan. 22, the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. In the statement, Biden and Harris said they are committed to putting the Roe ruling, which legalized abortion throughout the United States, into federal law and “appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.”
The abortion-related actions were the latest in a series of executive steps taken by Biden since he was inaugurated Jan. 20. He has issued directives on such matters as the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration, racial equity, gay and transgender rights and climate change.
More than three-fourths of Americans oppose using taxpayer money to support abortions overseas, according to a public opinion survey released Jan. 27 by Marist Poll and commissioned by The Knights of Columbus. The survey, conducted earlier in January, showed 77% of those polled “oppose” or “strongly oppose” federal funds for international abortion. This includes 64% of Americans who identify themselves as pro-choice.
The survey also showed 58% of Americans “oppose” or “strongly oppose” providing taxpayer money to pay for abortions in the United States.
The new poll again shows “a majority of Americans do not support the sweeping pro-abortion changes to law that are sought by President Biden and the Democrat Congress,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “Pursuit of this radical pro-abortion agenda shows just how out of touch they are with their constituents.”
The Mexico City Policy – implemented by President Reagan at a 1984 conference in the city for which it was named – originally prohibited international family planning organizations from receiving federal funds unless they agree not to perform or counsel for abortions or lobby in order to liberalize the pro-life policies of foreign governments. The Trump administration expanded the policy’s reach beyond family planning organizations and funds to all federal agencies and international health aid. It was renamed the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (PLGHA).
The policy has been on a political seesaw for more than 36 years. After Reagan instituted it, the policy remained in force until 1993, when President Clinton rescinded it. President George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001, only to see it overturned by President Obama eight years later. President Trump restored and expanded the policy after he took office in 2017.
In August 2020, the U.S. State Department released an administrative review of the PLGHA rule that found only eight of 1,340 prime recipients of grants and 47 sub-awardees refused to agree to the requirements of the policy and thereby forfeited the funds.
Two of the prime awardees that declined to agree to the PLGHA terms were the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPFF) and Marie Stopes International (MSI), leading abortion advocacy organizations overseas. The Government Accountability Office reported in March 2020 the IPPF and MSI were the largest prime recipients to reject the requirements, and more than half of the sub-grantees that refused were affiliated with those organizations, according to the Center for Family and Human Rights.
The Trump administration issued a final rule through HHS in 2019 that bans the use of Title X money “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” The rule, supported by the ERLC and other pro-life organizations, requires “clear financial and physical separation” between Title X programs and non-Title X programs in which abortion is promoted as a method of family planning. As the federal government’s family planning program, Title X serves about 4 million Americans – those of low income in particular.
PPFA announced about six months later it would not abide by the rule. The decision, which had been expected, resulted in Planned Parenthood’s forfeiting $50 million to $60 million a year in order to conduct business as usual as the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.
The loss of funding through Title X produced about a 10% decrease in government money for Planned Parenthood. PPFA and its affiliates collected $616.8 million in government grants and reimbursements at federal, state and local levels, according to its latest annual report in 2019. The abortion giant’s clinics performed more than 345,000 of the procedures in the year covered by the same report.
Messengers to the 2017 SBC meeting adopted a resolution calling for defunding of Planned Parenthood at all levels of government and denouncing the organization’s “immoral agenda and practices.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)