Is PEPFAR Funding Abortions Overseas with U.S. Tax Dollars?
Receiving more than $100 billion in funding since just 2013, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the most substantial governmental effort to address a single disease. President George W. Bush launched the initiative in 2003 to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Now, however, the Biden administration seems to be circumventing the initiative’s original intent of treating and preventing HIV/AIDS and using the program as a channel to fund abortion overseas. PEPFAR is due to be reauthorized this year, but pro-life advocates have serious concerns about PEPFAR funds going toward abortion and abortion businesses.
When President Joe Biden rescinded the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy in 2021, he opened the door wide open for the United States to fund foreign non-governmental organizations that promote and carry out abortions. It is highly likely that PEPFAR funds have already been directed to that end. Because President Biden rescinded previous Republican pro-life protections, it now falls to Congress to insert pro-life protections into PEPFAR’s reauthorization.
In September 2022, the Biden administration released a strategy document titled “Reimagining PEPFAR’s Strategic Direction.” Throughout this document, the Biden administration makes it clear that it considers abortion and contraception an essential part of PEPFAR’s work. The document states: “Where possible, PEPFAR will integrate HIV programming into strengthened public health systems to manage … 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” (emphasis added).
In addition, “Reimaging PEPFAR” seems to indicate that PEPFAR will fund programs for “LGBTQI+ rights.” PEPFAR plans to partner with American institutions to “strengthen coordination between PEPFAR and other U.S. government global health and development programs, including for tuberculosis, malaria, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality, LGBTQI+, and human rights” (emphasis added).
According to Devex, one of PEPFAR’s six program areas includes “Prevention, which ranges from contraceptives to voluntary circumcision programs to reproductive health education.” According to progressives, “reproductive health” necessarily includes abortion. We would be naive to ignore these code words for abortion.
In another telling sign, Planned Parenthood gushed over President Biden’s nominee for U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Dr. John Nkengasong. In a 2021 statement, Planned Parenthood praised Nkengasong and expressed plans to partner with him, stating, “We look forward to working together to expand access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services.”
A recent coalition letter signed by 31 groups — including the Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America — expressed concerns that “PEPFAR’s top grant recipients publicly support abortion as a method of family planning.” As an example, the letter noted that “the South African-based Anova Health Institute decried laws enacted in U.S. states that designate bathroom use based on biological sex while also promoting abortions to teens as young as 14.”
PEPFAR’s important work treating HIV and AIDS is credited with saving millions of lives in undeveloped countries. It is precisely because PEPFAR is critical for vulnerable HIV patients that we must not let the initiative’s praiseworthy goals be corrupted by pro-abortion organizations who are eager to receive more funding from PEPFAR (remember, money is always fungible) and advance their progressive agenda across the globe.
The U.S. government has no business exporting the killing of unborn babies to the developing world — and on the American taxpayers’ dime, no less. Before Congress reauthorizes PEPFAR, strong pro-life protections must be added to the reauthorization bill to ensure that taxpayer funding for PEPFAR does not go toward abortion.
Arielle Del Turco is Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, and co-author of "Heroic Faith: Hope Amid Global Persecution."
Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M. is Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs at Family Research Council.