On January 24, 2017, Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced S.210, The Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, or the Global HER Act for short. That introduction came the day following President Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy (MCP). The Global Her Act will “prohibit the application of certain restrictive eligibility requirements to foreign nongovernmental organizations with respect to the provision of assistance under part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.” In other words, the Global Her Act will permanently repeal the MCP. The bill will achieve that purpose by dissolving most eligibility-requirements for U.S. partners with regard to abortion, that is to say, under S.210, those U.S.-partnering organizations may offer counseling or make referrals for abortion, may advocate and lobby for pro-abortion legislation, and may even perform abortions themselves provided those activities are not financed with U.S. funds and they are done in countries where such activities are legal. Stressing the importance of S.210, Sen. Shaheen claims, “The Global Her Act would ensure that clinics don’t have to choose between providing comprehensive family planning services to a smaller group of women on a limited budget or providing limited reproductive health services with U.S. Funds.”
Abortion-rights organizations and providers voiced their support shortly after the introduction of the Global HER Act. For example, Cecile Richards speaking on behalf of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund offers the following praise: “The Global HER Act is a bold and necessary counter to President Trump’s dangerous executive order, which will deny lifesaving care to millions of the world’s most vulnerable women in the name of politics.” Likewise, Vicki Saporta who is the president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation says the following in an official statement: “We thank Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) for their leadership in introducing the Global HER Act and for taking bold action to permanently repeal this draconian [Mexico City Policy] and protect women’s health.” She continues, “The Global HER Act would once again ensure that foreign NGOs can provide accurate information and safe reproductive health care services.” And that is just a brief sample of the favorable comments.
Here, I would like to make two points with regard to S.210. First, the Global Her Act is a marketed as a bipartisan bill. While it is true that two of the forty-six cosponsors are republicans, it is a bit disingenuous to claim Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are the quintessential republicans who prove a bill is bipartisan. Consider, for example, Sen. Collins and Sen. Murkowski both have a failing 40% score from National Right to Life. In contrast, the Senators fare much better when judged by pro-abortion organizations like NARAL who gives them scores of 45% and 42% respectively. Planned Parenthood is much more gracious giving them scores of 70% and 58% respectively. But perhaps the most compelling evidence to invalidate the claim of bipartisanship is thirty-five years of Republican Party support for and Democratic Party opposition to the Mexico City Policy. Since first announced in 1984 by the Reagan Administration, the MCP has been rescinded by every democrat president and reinstated by every republican president. That same support and opposition are confirmed in the 2016 party platforms where republicans wholeheartedly embrace the MCP, while democrats demand its repeal.
Second, Sen. Shaheen and others claim the Global HER Act will prevent organizations from having to choose between “providing comprehensive family planning on a limited budget or providing limited reproductive health services.” It may be appropriate to review the letter of the MCP here. The MCP prohibits U.S. cooperation with organizations that “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” with a few exceptions. Those exceptions include when abortion is sought in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger and when abortion is provided as a means of post abortion care and therefore directed to restore the mother’s health. If an organization provides an abortion under those exemptions, it is still eligible to receive U.S. funds and work in 190 countries. According to the Pew Research Center, of the 196 countries surveyed, 190 countries allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is in grave danger (it is important to note that over one thousand medical professionals have signed the Dublin Declaration that states: “As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman) and 82 of those nations also allow abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Only those organizations that counsel or make referrals for abortion, advocate and lobby for pro-abortion legislation, and perform abortions themselves under the guise of family planning programming are ineligible. In that context, family planning is synonymous with birth-spacing. Even if someone doesn’t hold the true pro-life, pro-child, pro-woman position that any and all direct abortions are to be absolutely prohibited, certainly a policy that allows for direct abortion in cases of rape, incest, to restore the mother’s health, or save her life but prohibits it to affect family size and space births is a step in the rights direction. And most Americans who provide the tax revenue to fund those organizations agree. For example, in 2017 the Pew Research Center released an analysis covering twenty years of public polling on abortion views. They found in the most recent poll that 75% of Americans support some restrictions on abortion. Similarly, the Knights of Columbus and Marist Polls found 76% of Americans agree with those restrictions. Therefore, what is needed to respond to Sen. Shaheen’s claim is clarity on an issue that is already clouded with misinformation.