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U.S. to expand abortion ‘gag rule,’ won’t fund certain groups: Pompeo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Tuesday expanded its anti-abortion policies, prohibiting U.S.-funded organizations from supporting other groups that support abortion and forbidding the use of U.S. tax dollars to lobby for or against abortion.

Anti-abortion marchers rally at the Supreme Court during the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

In 2017, Trump reinstated a policy known as the Mexico City Policy requiring foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive U.S. family planning funds to certify they do not provide abortions or give abortion advice.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the United States will expand that policy known by critics as the “global gag rule” by cracking down on NGOs that fund other groups that support abortion.

The United States will also enforce the federal law forbidding the use of U.S. funding, including foreign assistance, to lobby for or against abortion, he added.

“We will refuse to provide assistance to foreign NGOs that give financial support to other foreign groups in the global abortion industry,” Pompeo told reporters.

Studies have found the Mexico City policy leads to increases in abortion rates because of cuts to contraception use and closures of health clinics. The rule also potentially raises the risk of maternal deaths and endangers children’s health worldwide, researchers have said.

Pompeo said the United States will cut funding to the Organization of American States as a result of the expanded rule. “The institutions of OAS should be focused on addressing crises in Cuba, Nicaragua and in Venezuela, not advancing the pro-abortion cause,” he said.

The OAS did not respond to a request for comment.

Anti-abortion groups applauded the announcement. “Taxpayer dollars should not fund abortion here or abroad, and respecting the inherent dignity of the unborn person goes hand in glove with our country’s foreign assistance and humanitarian work,” March for Life’s president, Jeanne Mancini, said in a statement.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the decision, saying on Twitter: “There is no end to the depths of the Trump Administration’s cruelty. Millions of women … will be arbitrarily left without care due to this shameful decision.”

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation in February to permanently repeal the policy.

Heather Boonstra, public policy director for the Guttmacher Institute, which researches and promotes family planning, called expansion of the Mexico City policy part of a “crusade” against reproductive health.

“This ideologically driven policy undermines the very goals of U.S. foreign aid programs by harming the health of people in developing countries, violating medical ethics, and trampling on democratic values,” Boonstra said in a statement.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Makini Brice; editing by Susan Heavey, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Berkrot

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