WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A legal fight over AIDS relief funding could have a major knock-on effect for pro-life policymaking.
In an op-ed Monday, March for Life president Jeanne Mancini sounded the alarm about USAID v. Alliance for Open Society International, a U.S. Supreme Court case involving AIDS relief funding. Mancini warns the court's ruling could create a loophole for federal tax dollars to pay for abortions overseas.
The question facing the high court is whether the constitutional rights of an American organization can be extended to foreign groups affiliated with it.
Currently, the U.S. government will only provide AIDS relief funds to foreign groups if they oppose sex trafficking and prostitution. Due to a previous Supreme Court decision in 2013, this restriction only applies to foreign organizations; applying it to U.S. groups was determined to be a violation of free speech.
But now, the court must determine whether the same goes for foreign entities tied to groups in the United States. If the Supreme Court says yes, then foreign pro-abortion groups could use their American counterparts to get government cash — undermining a pro-life rule known as the Mexico City Policy.
"What we're talking about are foreign, separate organizations that are based in those countries that might share some branding," Mancini remarked. "Why would they ever receive U.S. constitutional privileges? That doesn't make any sense."
The Mexico City Policy was first implemented in 1984 under U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and adopted by Republican presidents since then.
President Donald Trump adopted and expanded the Mexico City Policy on January 23, 2017 — just days after his inauguration. Trump's expanded version of the policy impacts billions of dollars in global health assistance.
The potential ramifications of USAID v. Alliance for Open Society International are not lost on the members of the Supreme Court.
Oral arguments for the case were held on May 5, conducted over the phone to maintain social distancing amid the Wuhan virus pandemic. Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked Christopher Michel, Assistant to the Solicitor General, "If the government were to lose this case, would any other programs or statutes be invalidated or called into question by such a decision?"
Michel replied, "I do think it would call into question a number of different statutory and administrative regulations."
Michel called it "commonplace" for the government to "condition foreign aid to entities abroad on certain policy objectives, such as opposing terrorism or supporting women's rights or opposing apartheid, or, in the case of the Mexico City policy, taking certain positions on abortion."
He warned that allowing foreign groups to team up with U.S. groups as a way of overcoming federal aid policies could "create a considerable risk of disturbing" a number of existing policies — including campaign finance laws.
"For example, Congress has long banned campaign contributions in U.S. elections by foreign entities," Michel said. "But Congress, of course, could not ban such contributions by U.S. entities."