Faced with firm opposition from the Knights of Columbus, the U.S Bishops Conference, many other pro-life groups, and the White House, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has agreed to drop language that would have opened the door to using AIDS relief funds to pay for abortions in Africa. The committee’s action was taken during a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
A Congressional committee is about to take America’s overseas AIDS relief program and use it as a vehicle for population control and abortion promotion. Knights are urged to write to their members of Congress (especially if they’re members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee) to oppose this change.
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is due for reauthorization in 2008. In 2003, this bill was passed with bipartisan support and has a proven record of success in saving lives.
Last month, however, the House Foreign Affairs Committee proposed a reauthorization bill (the “Global HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008”) which would drop the program’s exclusive focus on HIV/AIDS, and define HIV/AIDS and pregnancy as a “dual threat” to women’s lives.
The $50 billion authorized by the bill would then be used for both AIDS relief and what are termed “women’s reproductive health services” and “family planning services” Although the bill’s definition of “reproductive health” does not mention “abortion” abortion advocates have long interpreted “reproductive health” and “family planning” to include abortion. Women seeking solely HIV/AIDS treatment could unexpectedly find themselves subjected to abortion counseling.
Mexico City Policy
Currently, the Mexico City Policy provides that no U.S. population assistance funds can be given to non-governmental organizations unless they certify that it will not perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning. But the Mexico City Policy does not apply to AIDS relief legislation. The insertion of “reproductive health“ and “family planning” in AIDS relief legislation is a ploy to redirect AIDS relief money to international abortion organizations, and represents an end run around the Mexico City Policy restrictions. Foreign abortion groups that cannot currently obtain U.S. funding for family planning would be able to do so under this AIDS relief legislation.
Catholic Relief Services Affected
Catholic health institutions deliver approximately 25 percent of all HIV and AIDS care worldwide, and this bill places Catholic participation in jeopardy. Men, women and children seeking treatment for HIV and AIDS by Catholic providers in the world’s poorest regions could lose their access to treatment.
On Feb. 6, Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, wrote to the Foreign Affairs Committee, welcoming the major increase in funding for AIDS relief, but said that they were “deeply troubled” by inclusion of ‘reproductive health’ and ‘family planning’ services…”
That is why the National Right to Life Committee and many other organizations are asking that the legislation be changed, and we ask that you do, too.
Full text of Bishop Wenski’s letter and fact sheet.
What You Can Do
Contact members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by phone, FAX or e-mail. This is especially important if your own representative in Congress is a member of the committee.
Even if your representative is not on the committee, it will also be helpful to contact your representative and your U.S. senators by mail, Fax, e-mail or phone. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121 or call your representative’s local office.
“When you reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), please do NOT link the AIDS/HIV program to family planning and abortion. PEPFAR should keep its bipartisan focus on saving human lives. Those suffering from HIV/AIDS should not be sacrificed to the cause of abortion and population control.”
Due to the death of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, markup of this legislation has been postponed until Feb. 27 at 9:30 a.m.. Immediate action will ensure that your voice is heard before the committee action is taken.