(CFAM) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended President Donald J. Trump’s pro-life policies during four separate Congressional hearings this week on the president’s proposed budget. The budget slashes global family planning monies, which have been used to fund international abortion groups.
Tillerson is tasked with reducing the U.S foreign policy budget by thirty percent to $37.6 billion. He testified that the foreign policy budget had increased sixty percent since 2007, and that President Trump’s budget reform restores historic funding levels while preserving U.S. leadership abroad.
Tillerson remained poised as he responded to criticism from Senate and House Members on cuts to multi-lateral organizations, humanitarian assistance, diplomatic programs and global health.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), an abortion advocate who sought to codify the permanent removal of the Mexico City Policy that prohibits foreign aid funds to abortion, challenged the Secretary of State on the policy and on the elimination of family planning funding. Those funds increased to over $600 million under the Obama administration despite near universal saturation of the contraceptive market in the same period.
Shaheen asked whether the administration would alter the Mexico City Policy if an assessment after six months revealed negative health outcomes. Dissatisfied with Tillerson’s first response, she pressed further, “Would you be comfortable with such an impact to women’s health?” Unfazed, Tillerson reaffirmed the policy, stating, “we will carry out [MCP] consistent with the President’s order.”
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During the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) continued Senator Shaheen’s line of questioning by asking Secretary Tillerson if he would recommend reversing Mexico City Policy if a six-month review revealed adverse effects. Tillerson replied that the implementation process included meetings with major health delivery non-governmental organizations to mitigate effects on delivery. While he said he would not recommend policy reversal he said he was open to issuing waivers should he and the Secretary of Health and Human Services deem it necessary.
Congressman Chirs Smith (R-NJ) urged Tillerson not to grant such waivers. “Global health ought to be inclusive not exclusive of unborn children,” Smith said. Waivers “would have the perverse impact of incentivizing foreign NGOs to be non-compliant with the Mexico City Policy,” he continued. The only groups that did not comply when the policy was last in place under the George W. Bush administration were abortion giants International Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International.
The Mexico City Policy implementation guidelines prevent, in most cases, foreign non-government organizations that perform or lobby for abortion from receiving global health funding. President Trump also withdrew funding from the UN Population Fund – a source that also funds abortion organizations.
Foreign organizations performing abortions in twenty-seven countries today would retain funding, however, due to the legal restrictions permitted under the Mexico City Policy. Eliminating family planning funding within the global health account would eliminate this loophole. Family planning through humanitarian assistance for victims of sexual violence would remain in place.
Appropriators in both the House and Senate are drafting their own State Department budgets. In an effort to ensure that pro-life advances overseas are maintained, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) drafted a letter signed by eighteen colleagues requesting the codification of the Mexico City Policy and the Kemp-Kasten provision. Congressman Smith drafted a similar letter, which gained eighty-one signatures.