(CNSNews.com) – On the eve of the annual March for Life – being held mostly virtually this year – President Joe Biden on Thursday reversed several of his predecessor’s pro-life policies. He lifted restrictions on the use of taxpayer dollars to support abortions abroad, and ordered the U.S. to withdraw from a 2020 declaration signed by more than 30 governments that oppose abortion.
Earlier in the day, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the actions would “run over the consciences of American taxpayers and put them back on the hook for funding abortions overseas.”
“An administration that wanted to pursue unity might observe that 77 percent of Americans – including a majority of Democrats and 85 percent of independents – don’t want taxpayer dollars to fund foreign abortions,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, referring to a new Marist poll on the subject.
“This and many other common-sense pro-life policies enjoy broad support from the American people,” he said. “But the radicalism of the modern Democratic party seems dug in. Fortunately, political dynamics change, but the moral truth does not. Executive orders can’t alter the basic science of human life.”
Revoking the 1984 Mexico City Policy has become a rite of passage for every Democratic president upon taking office. Biden declared in a memo that the prohibition of funding for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that carry out or promote abortion abroad “undermine the United States’ efforts to advance gender equality globally by restricting our ability to support women’s health and programs that prevent and respond to gender-based violence.”
The memo also ordered Secretary of State Antony Blinken to withdraw U.S. co-sponsorship and signature from the “Geneva Consensus Declaration on Promoting Women’s Health and Strengthening the Family,” a document endorsed last October which among other things declares “that there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion.”
Biden further instructed Blinken to “take the steps necessary to resume funding to the United Nations Population Fund,” and to work to ensure that in foreign assistance programs “adequate funds are being directed to support women’s health needs globally, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.”
The UNFPA received $69 million in U.S. funding in 2016, but like his Republican predecessors President Trump defunded it shortly after taking office – under a legal provision prohibiting federal funding for any agency that “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” The UNFPA consistently denies links to China’s coercive population-control policies.
‘A payout to the abortion industry’
While not unexpected, some saw the specific timing of Biden’s actions as significant.
“Biden’s actions today are bad enough, but they are even more insulting coming just hours before the annual March for Life, which is tomorrow,” commented conservative activist Gary Bauer. “Knowing how important abortion is to the left-wing base, it is surprising that Biden didn’t issue these orders sooner, unless the timing was deliberate. It hardly seems coincidental.”
In the Marist poll cited by McConnell, even among respondents self-identifying as “pro-choice,” 64 percent opposed using tax dollars to support abortion abroad.
“The majority of Americans don’t want their tax dollar to pay for abortion, at home or abroad,” Students for Life of America said on Thursday. “As the country is struggling from the impact of the coronavirus, we should focus our taxpayer funded healthcare dollars for things that promote health -- not abortion.”
“Americans across the political spectrum oppose the use of taxpayer funding to promote abortion and abortion businesses,” said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Despite this, the new administration is moving forward with a payout to the abortion industry that backed their political campaign.”
NGOs complained that the Mexico City Policy, which they call the “global gag rule,” forced them to choose between getting U.S. funding and complying with the rule that they could neither provide nor advocate for abortions (or support other NGOs that did) – or forgo the funding, to the detriment of their broader programs.
Reacting to Biden’s actions, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) said that since 1997 the policy had cost its member associations up to 60 percent of their funding, and had “ contributed to an increase in unintended and high-risk pregnancies, unsafe abortions – culminating in unnecessary maternal deaths.”
MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes International), one of the world’s largest abortion providers, applauded Biden's move, but said it faces “a funding shortfall of $13.5 million as we come to the end of stopgap funding that was secured when Trump first signed the Global Gag Rule.”
“Now, much of this stopgap funding has ended, and we again need people who believe in choice to stand with us and close this gap,” it said, appealing for donations. “Together, we can keep services going for women who urgently need them and ensure that Trump’s dangerous policies don’t outlive his presidency.”
UNFPA said in a statement Biden’s decision to restore funding to its coffers “sends a powerful message to women and girls around the world that their rights matter.”