House Republicans passed a one-year extension of funding for the Bush era PEPFAR program providing AIDS relief to Africa but with guardrails to stop what one GOP congressman told Fox News Digital is a Biden administration push to fund abortions on the continent through the program.
In a vote late Thursday night, the Republican controlled House passed the State Foreign Operations Appropriations bill by a vote of 216-212 which included a 1-year funding of PEPFAR along with provisions that prevent funding groups that Republicans say promote abortions through the program.
“The learning curve has accelerated with so many members realizing that Biden has hijacked PEPFAR,” New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, the prime sponsor of a 2018 bill enacted into law to reauthorize PEPFAR for five more years, told Fox News Digital on Friday. “Last night was, I think, a major victory.”
PEPFAR, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, was launched in 2003 under President George W. Bush and has invested over $100 billion fighting AIDS across the world while saving 25 million lives and preventing millions of infections, the State Department says.
In June, Smith spoke to Fox News Digital about the ways that PEPFAR has changed under the Biden administration and provided documents, including “Reimagining PEPFAR’s Strategic Direction” that he said “makes absolutely clear that the new direction of the program includes integrating PEPFAR with abortion promotion.”
“For awhile there they were putting out a soft narrative that there’s no merging or integration of abortion promotion in HIV aids and we’ve shown through the documents in the actual plan, “Re-imagining PEPFAR”, which made it very clear they’re giving money, billions of dollars, to organizations in order to promote abortions and to change laws,” Smith said to Fox News Digital on Friday.
Smith also pointed out that Democrats have spread a “false narrative” that if PEPFAR is not re-authorized for a 5-year term through legislation by October 1st that the program is “over” and said that it can be funded through the appropriations process like it has been several times before like “hundreds” of other laws that were not reauthorized.
“They are spreading false alarms, particularly in Africa, that if its not renewed by today it’s over,” Smith said. “What a lie. How dare they do that. I just couldn’t believe it. They know how this place works.”
A key part of the issue, Smith explained in a press release, was Biden’s repealing of the Mexico City Policy, a Reagan era rule that prevented taxpayer money to fund NGOs that promote abortion, that Smith said “ensured that PEPFAR’s over $6 billion dollars a year in taxpayer grant money wasn’t subsidizing foreign non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortion on demand.”
Smith isn’t the only critic who has expressed concerns over PEPFAR’s ties to abortion activism under the Biden administration. In May, the Daily Caller reported about a letter sent by 31 conservative and pro-life groups calling on legislators to block any possibility of abortion funding through PEPFAR.
Pro-life groups have expressed opposition to any PEPFAR funding that does not incorporate the Mexico City Policy.
“PEPFAR is a wonderful bipartisan program that combats HIV/AIDS around the globe,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement on Friday. “PEPFAR is not going anywhere, nor should it. In fact, a bill to continue the program has passed in the House with critical pro-life guardrails.”
“We applaud the House for protecting the core mission of the program against the Biden Administration’s attempts to use an AIDS relief program to jam their agenda to fund abortion providing groups to carry out ‘reproductive health, rights and services.”
In a statement to Fox News Digital, March For Life also praised the House for the funding extension and the abortion safeguards.
“Having worked years ago on the historic, bipartisan PEPFAR program for HIV/AIDS relief, I am most grateful to the House of Representatives for protecting this life-saving initiative from the Biden administration’s expansion of this program beyond its mission: from HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care – to advocacy and funding for so-called ‘reproductive health, rights and services,'” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said.
“We especially applaud Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey who has fought relentlessly to protect this health initiative from becoming an expansion of abortion advocacy worldwide.”
Additionally, a group of 139 African parliamentarians sent a letter to Congress in June to express “concerns and suspicions that this funding is supporting so-called family planning and reproductive health principles and practices, including abortion, that violate our core beliefs concerning life, family, and religion.”
“My concern is that there’s an imperialism here of forcing pro-life countries, except for South Africa the countries of Africa are pro-life, to embrace the killing of their babies,” Smith told Fox News Digital. “It’s troubling beyond words that the West especially is imposing that on these countries. It should be all about protection and medicine to fight HIV AIDS.”