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Exporting abortion isn’t just wrong from a diplomatic and moral perspective; it is illegal. 

By Valerie Huber

This article originally appeared on The Federalist

In response to Roe being overturned, Secretary of State Antony Blinken doubled down on the Biden administration’s commitment to exporting and promoting abortion.

“[U]nder this Administration, the State Department will remain fully committed to helping provide access to reproductive health services and advancing reproductive rights around the world,” Blinken said in an official statement. Of course, most understand that “reproductive health services” and “reproductive rights” are simply euphemisms for abortion. 

The fact of the matter is that there are standing laws — as well as longstanding international agreements — prohibiting this sort of practice. Perhaps the Biden administration is counting on most Americans to be unfamiliar with these policies. Maybe they think Congress isn’t paying attention to what the administration is exporting abroad, that Congress is unaware that such activities are besmirching the image of the United States, or that Congress is unwilling to investigate.

Exporting abortion isn’t just wrong from a diplomatic and moral perspective; it is illegal. 

Yet, in the course of my work leading the Institute for Women’s Health (IWH), I’ve met with senior officials in governments all over the world who tell me America is directly attaching ideological conditions, like liberalized access to abortion, to their receipt of U.S. funding. The conversations I’ve had during my time at IWH and as U.S. special representative for Global Women’s Health confirm that certain U.S. administrations have been meddling in this way for quite some time, at least as far back as the Clinton administration.

Secretary Blinken and President Joe Biden ought to be held accountable for disregarding U.S. legal prohibitions and international diplomatic norms to which the U.S. has agreed. Here are two laws and an international norm Secretary Blinken seems to be ignoring — or perhaps simply defying.

1. The Helms Amendment prohibits the use of U.S. foreign aid to pay for abortion.

The Helms Amendment can be traced all the way back to 1973, in the immediate wake of the Roe v. Wade decision. Up until the passage of this amendment, the federal government was aggressively developing and assembling large-scale abortion kits and drugs as part of its foreign assistance, making self-administered abortion a key part of its population programs. The late Sen. Jesse Helms was clear: “Unless Congress [reverses USAID’s policy] now, we will soon see the day when abortifacient drugs and techniques dominate AID’s program, and the United States becomes the world’s largest exporter of death.” 

The Helms Amendment bars the use of American foreign aid funding to support the “performance of abortion as a method of family planning” or their use to “motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” This abortion prohibition is unambiguous and provides direction for foreign assistance programs throughout the federal government. 

2. The Siljander Amendment prohibits using funds for abortion lobbying.

The Siljander Amendment dates back to 1981 and states that “none of the funds made available under [the annual State Department appropriations act] may be used to lobby for or against abortion.” To be fair, the USAID guidelines intended to explicate this limitation in real terms could certainly use more specificity and clarity, but the prohibition is clear enough.

The Department of State is responsible for enforcing the accurate application of amendments but has done so inconsistently — and Secretary Blinken, as its head, appears to have little interest in the spirit or intent of this standing law. 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre went so far as to brush aside the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, when asked about its implications for the Biden administration’s pursuit of global abortion export: “I don’t think this stops the work that the president is going to do or wants to do or is looking to do with leaders.”

3. A 1961 UN Convention prohibits interference with other nations’ internal affairs.

American policy, of course, isn’t the only point of concern. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, established by the United Nations in 1961, outlines a duty for nations sending diplomats to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State,” as well as a responsibility not to “interfere in the internal affairs of that State.”  

Yet, in addition to my conversations with global government officials about ideological conditions for funding, I’ve also spoken to many members of foreign parliaments who give examples of how the U.S. is actively interfering with policy and legislative deliberations in their countries — a clear violation of the terms of diplomatic relations to which we agreed and as explicitly enumerated in the Vienna Convention.

In these ways and many others, the abortion debate has brought to light an ugly, perverse trend in global politics: The weaponization of women’s health funding to bully sovereign nations.

And this weaponization ultimately leaves women behind — depriving them of their desperate health needs. While progressive ideologues battle to insert liberalized abortion policy into nations that don’t want it, a pregnant woman or newborn dies somewhere around the world every 11 seconds

Women’s health shouldn’t be a political agenda. No sovereign nation should be blackmailed into adopting policies that counter their foundational values of respecting all life. Our global leaders should be motivated by a desire to revere and protect the dignity of human life and liberty. 

For that reason, I read Blinken’s statements with alarm — and I think more people ought to do the same. The Biden administration seems to be undermining standing laws and extant diplomatic norms. There is only so long an administration can continue down this path before its avarice causes irreparable harm. 

The rule of law is not to be treated carelessly. It is hard-won and easily lost. Subverting the law and undermining sovereignty abroad for the sake of ideological wins must be publicly condemned — and contradicted, wherever and however possible. 

Valerie Huber is the founder and president of the Institute for Women’s Health. She previously served as the U.S. special representative for Global Women’s Health.

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