(CNN)The Trump administration is pushing to expand its ban on funding for foreign nonprofits that perform or promote abortions, a move that critics say could further restrict health care access around the world.
In a move that will please President Donald Trump’s base, the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration published the proposed rule on Monday to extend the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy, which already encompasses global health grants and cooperative agreements, to apply to contracts. The rule already applies to the State Department, Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense and the US Agency for International Development.The proposed rule — which now faces a 60-day comment period that ends after Election Day — marks another appeal by the administration to abortion rights opponents in the run-up to the presidential election. In recent weeks, Trump has highlighted his anti-abortion stance in his judicial nominees, and Vice President Mike Pence has appeared with anti-abortion groups in several swing states.The rule also comes about a month after a State Department review found that the policy as it currently stands has hurt efforts to treat tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and to deliver nutritional assistance, among other programs, and has had a significant impact in sub-Saharan Africa.Based on data from 2013 through 2015, global health funding provided through contracts could account for almost 40% of all funding affected by the rule should Monday’s provision expanding the policy take effect, said Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.Read More”This is that step that (the administration) had not yet taken,” Kates told CNN. “I think the intent is for the policy to apply to as much global health funding as possible.”Plans for the additional requirement had been underway for some time. In 2017, the Trump administration reinstated the “Mexico City Policy” — which had previously impacted only family planning assistance — by presidential memorandum and extended it to all applicable US global health funding under the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.” Organizations that continued to promote or perform abortions stood to lose all US health aid under the policy — affecting more than 1,300 global health projects and an estimated $12 billion in US assistance in 2017-2018, according to the Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.The policy was intended to apply to grants, cooperative agreements and contracts from the start. But applying the policy to contracts required the creation of new rules, which the State Department and USAID pursued by 2018. Monica Kerrigan, executive director of Planned Parenthood Global, slammed the proposed rule in a statement Monday.”As Covid-19 continues to claim lives and devastate communities, the administration is knowingly moving to expand this policy,” she said. “There is no excuse for this brazen disregard for people’s health and rights.”There have been restrictions on federal assistance money for abortion since 1973. In 1985, the ban was extended to foreign groups receiving federal aid. That policy has been enforced off and on since, with Democratic administrations traditionally rescinding the policy and Republican administrations reinstating it.