The U.S. State Department is moving forward with an expanded policy that restricts recipients of U.S. global health assistance from performing or promoting abortions.

In January, President Trump reinstated the “Mexico City Policy,” a policy that requires foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to certify they will not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning using funds from any source as a condition for receiving U.S. global family planning assistance. The policy has been revoked and reinstated by presidential administrations along party lines for the last 32 years. However, President Trump’s order expands the definition of “global health assistance” to include funding for international health programs, such as HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, global health security, family planning, and reproductive health care.

On May 15, the U.S. Department of State approved an initiative called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” a plan to implement provisions of President Trump’s revised Mexico City Policy among foreign NGOs that receive U.S. funding for global health assistance. In a statement, the department stated the policy will apply to all new funding agreements – grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts – for global health assistance and to existing agreements when amended to add funding. The policy will not reduce the amount of global health assistance the U.S. government makes available, and funding previously obligated will not be affected as a result of this policy, according to the announcement.

“All foreign NGOs will have the opportunity to receive global health assistance awards if they indicate their agreement to abide by the terms of Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance by accepting the provisions in their award,” the department stated. “Given the expansive nature of the new policy, the department will undertake a thorough and comprehensive review of the effectiveness and impact of the policy’s application over the next 6 months, which could include identifying implementation issues, and any other new information affecting implementation going forward.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO for the Center for Reproductive Rights, called President Trump’s expansion of the “global gag rule” a major assault on those who serve the world’s poorest and most vulnerable women. “This policy does not protect life,” Ms. Northup said in a statement . “It jeopardizes the lives of countless women by withholding critical information and access to the full range of reproductive health care.”

But Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a supporter of the expanded policy, said it ensures that U.S. taxpayers will no longer subsidize foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion on demand. “This humane policy seeks to respect and protect the precious lives of unborn girls and boys from the violence of abortion,” Rep. Smith said in a statement . “The new policy doesn’t cut global health assistance by so much as a penny.”

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