Good morning, everyone. Today I’m making two announcements about the State Department’s ongoing efforts to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize or promote abortions.The first announcement concerns the so-called “Mexico City Policy.”
We are also fully enforcing federal law prohibiting the use of U.S. funds, including foreign assistance, to lobby for or against abortion, otherwise known as the Siljander Amendment.
Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
Press Briefing Room
March 26, 2019
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. Today I’m making two announcements about the State Department’s ongoing efforts to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize or promote abortions.
The first announcement concerns the so-called “Mexico City Policy.”
This Reagan-era directive ensures U.S. taxpayer dollars aren’t used to support foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.
President Trump boldly expanded the Mexico City Policy in 2017. It now protects every human life impacted by the nearly $9 billion of foreign aid we spend on global health programs each year, and in turn protects more unborn babies around the world than ever before. This is decent; this is right. And I’m proud to serve in an administration that protects the least amongst us.
Now, two years into our administration, the vast majority of our implementing partners have agreed to comply with the policy, and they continue to work with us. This administration has shown that we can continue to meet our critical global health goals, including providing healthcare for women, while refusing to subsidize the killing of unborn babies.
As Secretary of State, I have directed our team to take all appropriate action to implement this policy to the broadest extent possible. Today I’m announcing further refinements to advance our efforts to protect the least amongst us.
As before, we will continue to refuse to provide assistance to foreign NGOs who perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.
Now, as a result of my decision today, we are also making clear we will refuse to provide assistance to foreign NGOs that give financial support to other foreign groups in the global abortion industry.
We will enforce a strict prohibition on backdoor funding schemes and end-runs around our policy. American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions.
This brings me to my second announcement. We are also fully enforcing federal law prohibiting the use of U.S. funds, including foreign assistance, to lobby for or against abortion, otherwise known as the Siljander Amendment.
In light of recent evidence of abortion-related advocacy by an organ of the Organization of American States, I directed my team to include a provision in foreign assistance agreements with the OAS that explicitly prohibits the use of funds to lobby for or against abortion.
The institutions of the OAS should be focused on addressing crises in Cuba, Nicaragua, and in Venezuela, not on advancing the pro-abortion cause.
And to ensure that our message is heard loud and clear, we will reduce our contributions to the OAS. Our reduction equals the estimated U.S. share of possible OAS expenditures on these abortion-related activities.
The American people should rest assured that this administration – and this State Department, and our USAID – will do all we can to safeguard U.S. taxpayer dollars and protect and respect the sanctity of life for people all around the globe.
Happy to take a couple questions.
MR PALLADINO: Any questions on —
MR PALLADINO: EWTN. (Inaudible), go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, some people have called the Mexico City Policy Trump’s global gag rule. What is the problem with describing it as this? And do you take exception to that description?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I mean, that’s silly. This is a policy that is designed fundamentally to protect human beings. It’s not the policy we’re arguing about, we’re talking about human lives. And our mission statement is very clear. We can achieve – as I talked about, all the global health objectives that are so important, so imperative – the great work that many of these foreign NGOs do without running the risk that they’ll be used to perform abortions or advocate for abortions. This is important. It’s deeply consistent with the most moral behavior of governments, and we’re determined to make sure that we don’t allow taxpayers’ dollars to get to these places.
MR PALLADINO: Follow-up on this?
MR PALLADINO: Matt, please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, sir. Can you be a little bit more explicit about which organ of the OAS? Is it PAHO? And if – and how much it is that —
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ll get you a set – we have a sheet. We’re happy to provide you some more details on that.
QUESTION: Okay, and then just secondly, on a different – well, not slightly different, a lot different. Are you disappointed at all that – of the reaction from the UN chief, from Canada, from Turkey and the Gulf states about the – reject – in essence, saying they’re not going to sign on to the Golan recognition, and they don’t – and they are going to uphold the Security Council resolution that found the annexation null and void?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I’m saddened by that but not surprised. I remember the move to Jerusalem of our embassy as well. In each case, we’re simply recognizing facts on the ground and the reality and doing the right thing. We hope those nations will join us to understand how important that is, how right it is, and we are continuing to have conversations with – you mentioned a handful of countries – with each of them about this issue, about our decision and why we believe this is fundamentally the right decision as well.
MR PALLADINO: Al-Arabiya. Go ahead, Nadia.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary. Just to follow up on the Golan, yesterday Prime Minister Netanyahu said that basically he is entitled to keep it because they won it by war. Are you setting a precedent that powerful countries can actually overtake land over international law?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am, that’s a good question. The answer is absolutely not. This is an incredibly unique situation. Israel was fighting a defensive battle to save its nation, and it cannot be the case that a UN resolution is a suicide pact. It simply can’t be, and that’s the reality that President Trump recognized in his executive order yesterday.
MR PALLADINO: Washington Post, Carol Morello.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am.
QUESTION: — many of the NGOs that provide healthcare on the ground, particularly in Africa and some Asian countries, tell a totally different story than what you do. They say that this is particularly hurtful to healthcare to women in the rural areas and, in fact, it will lead to greater pregnancy, more pregnancies and inevitably to more abortions. Is there – what do you – how do you respond to this and is there —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, they’re just wrong.
QUESTION: — anything you’re doing or can do?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They’re just – they’re just wrong, Carol. They’re just wrong about that. This argument has been presented for an awfully long time, and they’re just factually wrong about that. The moneys that this administration is providing for global health remain. We are working hard. We’re working alongside those NGOs that do some phenomenal work, and the theory that somehow not protecting every human life is destroying human life is perverse on its face.
MR PALLADINO: Reuters. Lesley, on —
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I’m going to follow up on that. So if you’re cutting back on funding for this, would you expand it in any other areas connected to what Carol was saying on social development, gender equality, and anything on women’s maternal health in developing countries?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I mean, we’ve made – I think the Trump administration has made clear since the beginning of the administration that the total dollars allocated for women’s health issues and global health issues – it remains unchanged. We’re just ensuring that those dollars aren’t used to underwrite abortion, something that’s required in the Siljander case – the Siljander Amendment, in federal law.
MR PALLADINO: Last question, CBS. Please.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, one more on this topic. You said that it’s important to protect the sanctity of life, and talking about some of these NGOs on the ground, they have to make the choice now whether to get those federal funds or keep providing things like HIV and tuberculosis funding. Last year, 940,000 people died of HIV and AIDS, 1.6 million died of tuberculosis. Are you prioritizing preventing abortions over services that could be provided to save those lives and how does that fit in with the sanctity of life?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not sure I understand your question. We – PEPFAR, the United States provides an enormous set of resources to prevent death from HIV. America is the most generous nation in the history of the world with respect to the particular instance you cite. These two don’t run at cross purposes. We need – one need not perform abortions in order to protect people from HIV. They’re fundamentally disconnected and so there’s —
QUESTION: But are you saying —
SECRETARY POMPEO: — no prioritization there. We still consider PEPFAR and all the activities – the global health initiatives that the United States Government and the State Department in particular underwrite – to be central to achieving objectives that are important for the world and important for the United States.
QUESTION: But are you forcing these NGOs to make a choice between providing this women’s health service and receiving U.S. funds?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, they simply are prohibited from doing these things that run counter to the United States policy, which is not to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to underwrite abortion. That’s all.
I’ll take one more.
MR PALLADINO: One more?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
MR PALLADINO: Okay. Kim Dozier, (inaudible).
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi. Yes, ma’am.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the U.S. asking for from China with regards to the people of Tibet and Uighur Muslims, protecting their rights?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, we’ve been very vocal about that, and – publicly – and had long conversations with them privately as well. What’s taking place with respect to the Uighurs is tragic. The numbers are in the certainly hundreds of thousands. This is – I think we use the worlds – words “historic human rights abuse,” and we’re working to convince the Chinese that this practice is abhorrent and ought to be stopped.
Great. Thank you all very much. Have a great day.