By Lisa Correnti
WASHINGTON DC, February 15 (C-FAM) A Presidential Memorandum issued last month by President Obama under the guise of gender equality and women’s empowerment will be used to advance sexual and reproductive health, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights overseas.
Abortion activists applauded the president’s directive “Coordination of Policies and Programs to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women and Girls Globally,” as a means to ensure that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s work on sexual and reproductive health and rights remains a priority in U.S. foreign policy and development assistance.
While gender equality and empowerment includes noncontroversial programs to help young girls remain in school, assist women in securing fundamental rights in countries where restricted, and protect marginalized persons; critics point out that U.S. diplomatic efforts and USAID funded programs have sexualized traditional cultures, and promoted abortion as a reproductive right.
The Presidential Memorandum will institutionalize across all government agencies gender equality policies previously established by Obama through executive orders, and through State Department initiatives introduced by Secretary Clinton that prioritize abortion and homosexual rights through diplomatic means, including the allocation of foreign aid.
Obama’s Memorandum directs new Secretary of State John Kerry to appoint an Ambassador at Large to oversee the Office of Global Women’s Issues, and report directly to him. It also established an interagency working group chaired by the National Security Advisor to oversee implementation and promote coordination across over 20 government agencies ranging from Agriculture to Defense to the Intelligence Community to the Peace Corp and the Office of the Vice President.
Gender equality directives previously released by the administration address eliminating violence against women and LGBT persons but also promote changing cultural attitudes and offering special benefits to LGBT persons.
Sexual and reproductive health, mentioned several times in these directives, would mandate a full-range of family planning methods across several development assistance programs. This focus on access will expose poor women to known health risks associated with some family planning methods, including a USAID-funded contraceptive that women in the U.S will no longer use and substandard abortion methods outlined in a recent World Health Organization report.
Global abortion groups have long called for sexual and reproductive health care to be integrated into all levels of U.S. foreign assistance. These groups complain that sexual and reproductive health programs have been segregated – or “siloed” – into different offices, agencies, and funding mechanisms. The president’s directive will help facilitate this change and create a rise in funding for sexual and reproductive health – an amount abortion groups demand skyrocket to $1 billion annually.
The Presidential Memorandum is consistent with Obama’s previous actions to promulgate sexual and reproductive rights overseas. He reinstated funding to the United Nations Population Fund, ceased by President Bush for its complicity with China’s One Child Policy, overturned the Mexico City Policy that barred federal funding of international abortion groups that commit abortions and advocate for overturning laws that protect unborn children and their mothers, and is giving USAID funding to groups that normalize risky sexual behavior and promote unsafe distribution of morning-after pills to teens.
Lisa Correnti is Director of Operations at C-FAM. Her article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/).