US extends foreign aid ban for NGOs supporting abortion

The US is toughening a policy denying funding to foreign NGOs that perform or promote abortions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US refused to "subsidize the killing of unborn babies."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday announced that the US had expanded its restriction on foreign aid for non-governmental organizations that support abortions or work with groups that help women access the medical service.

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"We can continue to meet our critical global health goals," Pompeo said. "While refusing to subsidize the killing of unborn babies." He announced new limitations on the use of federal government funds.

"We will refuse to provide assistance to foreign NGOs that give financial support to other foreign groups in the global abortion industry," Pompeo said.

Read more: President Trump’s Global Gag Rule endangers lives in Africa

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Restriction of 'backdoor funding schemes'

Pompeo said that the new restrictions would "enforce a strict prohibition on backdoor funding schemes and end runs around our policy," adding that "American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions."

The Secretary also said the US would cut some assistance to the Organization of America States (OAS) for allegedly lobbying for abortion availability in the Western Hemisphere, but it was unclear how much this would be.

"The institutions of the OAS should be focused on the crises in Cuba, Nicaragua and in Venezuela and not advancing the pro-abortion cause," Pompeo said.

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'It's not only about abortion - it's about women's rights'

The changes are an expansion of the so-called "Mexico City policy," which was first established under President Ronald Reagan but was rescinded by subsequent Democrat administrations.

Just days after taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump reinstated the policy and expanded it to include not only reproductive health programs, but all health programs.

Pompeo denies funding cuts hurt maternal healthcare

Critics of the policy call it the "global gag rule" and say it hurts reproductive and maternal health care in developing nations.

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Pompeo denied that and said the US would continue to be a leader in such aid.

Critics have also said that not only does it limit what organizations can do with their own money, but it places restrictions on the types of conversations health care providers can have with patients.

Read more: After Trump slashes family planning funds, world convenes to help ensure 'She Decides'

In January last year, one year after Trump announced the initial funding cuts, Marie Stopes International, an NGO focused on providing contraception and safe abortions, estimated the funding gap would result in 2.5 million unintended pregnancies, 870,000 unsafe abortions, 6,900 avoidable maternal deaths and a €125-million ($141-million) increase in direct healthcare costs.

Human Rights Watch warned last year that Trump was applying the rule not only to the tens of millions of dollars the US gives to family planning programs, but also to the more than $8 billion the US donates to global health issues.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

A quick way to fulfill campaign promises

Less than a month into his presidency, Donald Trump has issued 17 executive actions. While this number in itself is not remarkable - by the same time, Barack Obama had signed roughly the same number of executive orders - the content of Trump's decrees is. It seems the new president wants to implement many of his campaign promises - including the controversial ones - as quickly as possible.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Executive orders and presidential memoranda

Executive actions (EA) allow the US president to give government agencies orders that do not need Congressional approval, circumventing the law-making process and speeding up the implementation process. Executive orders are a more wide-reaching form of EA that often deal with larger organizational directives, while presidential memoranda order specific agencies to do something.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Weakening Obamacare

Executive Order: The first executive order that Trump signed was a missive on deferring, waving or delaying parts of the Affordable Care Act to "minimize regulatory burdens." While Trump alone can not repeal the healthcare law instated under President Obama, he can undermine the implementation of "Obamacare" while the Republican majority in Congress prepares to repeal the law.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Pulling federal funding for abortion advice

Presidential Memorandum: Trump re-instated a policy that bars US federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling and advocate for abortion rights. This directive was initially instated by Republican president Ronald Reagan, rescinded by Democrat Bill Clinton, re-instated by Republican George W. Bush and again rescinded by Democrat Barack Obama.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Deportation of undocumented immigrants

Executive Order: Trump ordered immigration agents to vastly expand the scope of deportations. He wants federal grants to be pulled from sanctuary cities (where undocumented migrants are not prosecuted) and immigrants suspected of a crime to be detained, even if they were not charged. He plans to hire 10,000 new immigration agents and publish a report on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Building the Wall

Executive Order: In an executive order signed on January 25, President Trump called for "the immediate construction of a physical wall" in order to secure the US-Mexico border. He also referred to undocumented immigrants as "removable aliens," saying that the executive branch should "end the abuse of parole and asylum provisions currently used to prevent the lawful removal of removable aliens."

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Travel ban and halting refugee intake

Executive Order: Trump signed this controversial order on January 27. It banned people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US for three months, stopped the Syrian refugee program indefinitely and suspended refugee admissions for 120 days. Protests against the order erupted across the country and even Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham criticized the policy.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

The United States pulls out of TPP

Memorandum: It was no surprise that Donald Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). During his campaign, he frequently criticized the TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), saying that other countries benefited from these trade agreements at the expense of the US. Press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump prefered deals with individual countries.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Oil pipelines, if they're made from US steel

Three different memoranda: One on constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, another on continuing construction of the Keystone pipeline, and a third order on using American materials to build all pipelines - were issued on Trump's fourth day in office. Barack Obama had denied permits to both pipelines after massive protests from environmentalists, who feared the potential impact of spills.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Expand the military, freeze other government hiring

Memoranda: Trump quickly lived up to his campaign promise to invest in a bigger military, signing a memorandum for more troops, warships and a modernized nuclear arsenal a week into his presidency. Four days earlier, he ordered a freeze on the hiring of new civilian employees in federal agencies for up to 90 days, so that his administration could develop a long-term plan to shrink the workforce.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Lobbying, National Security Council and IS

Executive order: Every new government appointee will sign an ethics pledge that bans them from working as a lobbyist for five years after leaving their post and from ever lobbying the US government for other countries. On the same day, he issued two further memoranda ordering the Department of Defense to formulate a plan to defeat IS within 30 days and to reorganize the National Security Council.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Steve Bannon in the National Security Council

Memorandum: Trump ordered an overhaul of the National Security Council (NSC) to elevate the role of Stephen Bannon. He removed several senior members from the foreign policy decision-making panel while Trump's chief strategist, known for his far-right views, will serve on the committee usually staffed with generals. This breaks with the long-held norm of not appointing political actors to the NSC.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Deregulate, deregulate, deregulate

Executive Orders and Memorandum: Trump wants federal agencies to eliminate at least two prior regulations for every new regulation. He ordered a freeze on new and pending federal regulations, until a Trump-appointed department head could revise them. He also asked for the approval of "high priority infrastructure projects" to be sped up.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Presidential precedent

President Barack Obama issued a total of 277 executive orders - an average of roughly three per month, slightly fewer than his predecessor George W. Bush at 291. However, Obama issued 644 presidential memoranda during his time in office to get around blocks in Congress - a precedent Trump appears to be following.

law/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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