The report provided no basis for this claim, other than to cite a White House memo on President Biden’s overall efforts “to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as globally.” Mr. Biden’s only policy move was to reverse a Trump administration policy that prevented federal money from going to any organization fighting AIDS that is also providing counseling on abortion. That is consistent with the position established under Mr. Bush, that the abortion battle had nothing to do with global health.
But the report lit a fire under the most fervent anti-abortion Republicans in Congress, including former supporters of PEPFAR. Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, who sponsored the program’s reauthorization in 2018, wrote a letter to his House colleagues saying the administration’s latest PEPFAR action plan “makes absolutely clear that the new direction of the program includes ‘integrating’ PEPFAR with abortion promotion.” That new direction is nowhere in the report. The White House even added a footnote to the document cited by Mr. Smith to make it explicitly clear that “PEPFAR does not fund abortions, consistent with longstanding legal restrictions on the use of foreign assistance funding related to abortion.”
Mr. Smith and several anti-abortion activist groups say they’re upset that some of the nonprofit groups getting PEPFAR money have separate efforts, not funded by the program, that provide or promote abortion. But that was also the case at the beginning of the program.
With the demise of Roe v. Wade and a resulting backlash among many voters, the far right’s anti-abortion demands have become increasingly outrageous. In the Senate, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has held up all military promotions for half a year in a one-man crusade against the Pentagon’s policy allowing military personnel to travel to get an abortion.
Turning up the pressure, anti-abortion organizations like Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and the Family Research Council are making a test vote out of the reauthorization of PEPFAR, scoring it as a vote for abortion rights. That means any supporters of the program in its current form won’t get a perfect score on their anti-abortion report card, a threat strong enough to prevent many Republicans from doing the right thing. Mr. Smith and others want to add a policy cutting off AIDS funds to groups that provide abortion counseling, which could send reauthorization to defeat.