By Rebecca Oas, Ph.D and Wendy Wright
New York, November 15 (C-FAM) When world leaders pledged over $2.6 billion to Melinda Gates’ global family planning campaign, she assured them, “This is not about abortion.” The wife of billionaire Bill Gates branded her campaign “No Controversy.”
Yet this week the Gates Foundation is hosting an international conference in Ethiopia on the campaign and a significant number of workshops focus on abortion.
An estimated 3,000 people are expected to attend the meeting designed to build on last year’s London Summit where governments, corporations and wealthy foundations pledged political and financial commitments to increase family planning in developing countries. Melinda Gates is scheduled to speak.
“Some people think when we talk about contraception, that it’s code for abortion, which it’s not,” Melinda Gates said in April 2012 when she launched the campaign. “We’re not talking about abortion.”
On the agenda for the family planning conference in Ethiopia are sessions titled “Efforts to Implement Policies that Expand Access to Safe Abortion,” “Access to Safe Abortions,” “Abortion and Quality of Care,” and “Abortion: Before and After.” These feature representatives of the world’s top abortion providers–Ipas, Planned Parenthood, and Marie Stopes–as well as other pro-abortion groups.
Abortion is also the topic of two of the five poster exhibits and several “topical roundtables,” including an Ipas-chaired discussion promoting the World Health Organization’s problematic guidelines on how to do abortions.
A key aim of the conference is keeping pressure on national governments. Gates’ campaign partners, such as Planned Parenthood and Population Action International (PAI), have promised to increase their advocacy to keep money flowing from donor and recipient countries. A “lot of our work in sub-Saharan Africa is really around holding those country governments to account” for their pledges, said PAI’s president
Bill and Melinda Gates are widely praised for their philanthropic work. Their foundation, with a $36.2 billion endowment, focuses on health care, education and ending poverty, much of it in the developing world. Despite the power that comes with money and influence, engaging in controversial issues like abortion could close doors to their benevolent work.
Melinda Gates, a Catholic, told Newsweek, “From the very beginning, we said that as a foundation we will not support abortion, because we don’t believe in funding it.”
Her “No Controversy” campaign quickly became controversial because of its links to abortion. Critics pointed out the organizations chosen to implement the efforts were primarily abortion promoters.
Among them are abortion giant Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Population Fund, which are linked with coercive population control programs in China and elsewhere.
Another Gates’ partner implied abortion and contraception are inextricably linked. Ipas exists almost exclusively to promote abortion and distribute abortion devices. Commenting on the London Summit, Ipas’ president said, “Contraceptives alone are not enough” and that abortion needed to be included.
This means that the money governments give to global family planning initiatives end up funding activist groups that then pressure the same governments for greater commitments. Many of the groups advocate for abortion as well as contraception.
The Friday Fax asked the Gates Foundation if it or Melinda Gates have changed their stance on promoting abortion. They declined to comment.
Rebecca Oas is the Associate Director of Research and Wendy Wright is Vice President for Government Relations and Communications at the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM). Their article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM, a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/).