Will the Wildly Successful PEPFAR Global AIDS Program Get Held Up in Congress Due to Abortion Politics?
*This article originally appeared on The Body.
On the 20th anniversary of its launch, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), widely seen as perhaps the most successful U.S. foreign aid program ever, faces a perilous path to Congressional reauthorization—the process by which the program would be locked in place, as is, for another five years.
The program’s uncertain fate comes despite the enormous efficacy of its $7.5 billion budget, which was launched by President George W. Bush in 2003 amid tremendous (and, to this day, continued) bipartisan support. Earlier this year, the program announced that it had brought lifesaving HIV treatment to more than 20 million people in 54 countries, making it the world’s largest source of HIV/AIDS relief.
But reauthorization, expected to happen this fall when Congress returns from summer recess, is snagged primarily due to the objections of Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who chairs a key House of Representatives foreign affairs panel overseeing PEPFAR legislation.
In June, Smith sent his fellow members of Congress a letter alleging that “President Biden has hijacked PEPFAR, the $6 billion a year foreign aid program designed to mitigate HIV/AIDs in many targeted—mostly African—countries in order to promote abortion on demand.”
The letter went on to name three recipients of PEPFAR funds—Population Services International (PSI), Village Reach, and Pathfinder International—alleging that they are using PEPFAR funds to provide or promote abortions in recipient countries, primarily in Africa. At least two of those three organizations have denied the letter’s claims.
The allegations come on top of the fact that PEPFAR, since its inception, has had to obey several preexisting U.S. laws—among them the Helms and Siljander amendments—that prohibit U.S. funds from being used to provide or promote abortions overseas. PEPFAR advocates, including Shepherd Smith of the Children’s AIDS Fund International, a staunchly anti-abortion group that played a large role in launching PEPFAR, have said there is no evidence whatsoever that PEPFAR funds are being used to advance abortions in recipient countries. Recently, in The Washington Post, Shepherd Smith called Rep. Chris Smith’s allegations “dumbfounding.”
Read the full article here.