Republican Lawmakers Call for USAID to Rescind Population Council Funds
Ten Republican House members on Oct. 24 sent a letter to Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, requesting that $65 million awarded to the Population Council for HIV/AIDS prevention activities be rescinded and granted to an organization that "does not support or perform" abortion. The letter states that giving the grant money to the Population Council violates "the principle" behind the "Mexico City" policy, an executive order that bars federal funding from going to international groups that use their own funds to provide or promote abortion services. The Population Council, which holds the patent on the medical abortion pill mifepristone and which the lawmakers say is a "promoter [and] provider" of abortion, should not have access to taxpayer dollars to fund medical abortions, according to the letter. "If the Population Council was a foreign nongovernmental organization and was applying for population funding instead of HIV/AIDS funding, it would be ineligible under U.S. law," the letter states. "[G]iving $65 million to an organization that specializes in medical abortions is unconscionable," the letter says, adding that "the American public does not want to subsidize abortion" and "we do not want to send a mixed message to other countries by paying abortion providers to be our international aid surrogates."
Questions About HIV/AIDS Prevention Activities
The letter also requests that USAID provide a breakdown of the amount of its funds that are being used to "fund or promote" research or implementation of abstinence-only programs, as well as comprehensive sex education programs that include information on condoms and contraceptives. The letter states that lawmakers are "extremely disappointed" that the Population Council's Horizons HIV prevention program "focuses only on condom promotion" and does not recommend abstinence. Abstinence in the council's program is "completely ignored as an intervention to reduce HIV and STD [transmission] among youth," despite evidence that abstinence and delaying the onset of sexual activity have proven "highly successful" in reducing HIV rates in Uganda and Zambia, according to the letter. The letter was signed by Reps. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mark Souder (R-Ind.), Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), David Vitter (R-La.), John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and Todd Akin (R-Mo.) (Letter text, 10/24).