Melinda Gates announced at the Global Family Planning Summit in London that the foundation she heads with her husband will contribute an additional $375 million to help counter President Donald Trump’s pro-life international policy.
Gates said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will increase its family planning funding by 60 percent, offering an additional $375 million over the next four years, with about $250 million to be used for family planning for teens around the world, reports Marie Claire.
“This is a difficult political climate for family planning,” Gates said at the Summit. “I’m deeply troubled, as I’m sure you are, by the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts.”
“If empowering women is more than just rhetoric for the president, he will prove it by funding family planning,” she added, according to the Guardian. The Summit is co-hosted by the Gates Foundation, the U.K. Department for International Development, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Summit’s website says it is also in “close partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Global Affairs Canada.” In a press release, Gates said:
Access to contraceptives changes everything. Women are freer to work outside the home, earn an income, and contribute to the economy. Mothers and fathers can devote more resources to their kids’ health and education—setting them up for a more productive future. Multiply that by millions of families, and you see why contraceptives are one of the greatest antipoverty innovations the world has ever known—and one of the smartest investments countries can make. Through the new commitments expected today at the Family Planning Summit, we have made a bold statement that investing in family planning is crucial to building the healthier and more prosperous future we’re all working towards. Soon after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order that reinstated what is known as the “Mexico City Policy” regarding U.S. aid for abortions overseas. The “Mexico City Policy” – called the “global gag rule” by the abortion industry and its allies – prohibits non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive U.S. funds, including International Planned Parenthood, from providing or promoting abortions, as a method of family planning, overseas.
The policy also bans these organizations from advocating for the passage of pro-abortion laws in other countries in which abortion is either illegal or restricted. Trump, however, went one step further: he updated the policy by directing the Secretary of State to implement a plan that expands the policy across all global health assistance funding. This means that U.S. taxpayer dollars will not be supporting any organizations that promote or participate in the management of abortion programs. The UNFPA, for example, is one such organization, with its long history of supporting China’s one-child population control program, an agenda that has included forced abortions. The Mexico City Policy does not reduce U.S. foreign assistance; however, it does ensure that those who partner with the United States in providing international aid act to safeguard that abortion is not performed or promoted. Though Gates said her foundation will only fund contraception and sex education, and not abortion, LifeNews reports, “but the money also will indirectly fund abortions, too. The billionaire family already gives money to some of the largest abortion chains in the world, including Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International.” In an interview with BBC, Gates – who identifies as a Catholic – said she is “optimistic” Pope Francis will change the Church’s teaching on contraception. “We work very extensively with the Catholic Church and I’ve had many discussions with them because we have a shared mission around social justice and anti-poverty,” she said. “And I think what this Pope sees is that if you’re going to lift people out of poverty, you have to do the right thing for women,” she said, even though “we have agreed at this point to disagree” on contraception. Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports, however, that such change is impossible, according to John Grabowski, associate professor of moral theology and ethics at Catholic University of America. “The Church’s teaching on opposing contraception isn’t a recent teaching, it’s not something made up by Pope Paul VI in 1968,” he told CNA. “This has been the teaching of the Church from its beginning, so the Church (including Pope Francis) can’t change constant, universal, authoritative teaching.” Additionally, Grabowski said, “Pope Francis has shown no indication that he wants to. He’s been absolutely emphatic in reaffirming the teaching of the Church in this area.” Upon Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy in January, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said, “For nearly a decade under President Obama, Americans have funded UNFPA, which has a long history of involvement in China’s brutal birth limitation policy – enforcement of which routinely includes the atrocity of forced abortions.” “Thanks to President Trump, the Secretary of State is directed to ensure Americans are no longer complicit in violating the dignity of women and children overseas,” she added. “No longer will abortion be a top U.S. export.” As the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam) reported in June, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended Trump’s pro-life policies during four congressional hearings on the president’s proposed budget that ends funding to international abortion groups. Planned Parenthood and its allies in government and the media have, nevertheless, continued the narrative that abortion is “women’s health care,” a theme that Gates herself questioned in 2014 when she said abortion and family planning had become “conflated.” In a statement on the Gates foundation’s website, titled
Impatient Optimists, Gates said she had grown concerned about the intertwining of family planning and abortion during an interview in Toronto. Though reporters asked her about the Gates Foundation’s newborn and child health initiatives, she said, “every journalist also focused on Canada’s policy on abortion.” “Let me tell you why this worries me,” she said. “Around the world there is a deep, broad, and powerful consensus: We should provide all women the information and tools to time and space their pregnancies in a safe and healthy way that works for them,” Gates explained. “This approach is simple, it works, and it saves lives.” She continued:
The question of abortion should be dealt with separately. But in the United States and around the world the emotional and personal debate about abortion is threatening to get in the way of the lifesaving consensus regarding basic family planning. I understand why there is so much emotion, but conflating these issues will slow down progress for tens of millions of women. That is why when I get asked about my views on abortion, I say that, like everyone, I struggle with the issue, but I’ve decided not to engage on it publicly–and the Gates Foundation has decided not to fund abortion. However, many NGOs that provide contraception will likely not abandon performing and promoting abortion, a decision that would leave them unable to receive U.S. aid. Following the announcement of Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, Gates told the Guardian, “We’re concerned that this shift could impact millions of women and girls around the world.”