A pro-life group is warning Senators that a proposed government funding bill could "blacklist" pro-life groups while funding promoters of abortion.

In an Oct. 30 letter to senators, March for Life Action warned that language in a mini omnibus (minibus) funding bill, H.R. 2740, "would prop up the abortion industry and overseas promoting of abortion with federal funds" and would set up a "vehicle to harass pro-life recipients" of U.S. foreign assistance.

The bill is under consideration in the Senate as Congress has until Nov. 21 to pass appropriations bills funding government agencies for the 2020 fiscal year. The bill was pulled from a vote on Thursday, but may be reintroduced in the coming weeks.

Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said in an interview with CNA, that the bill contains language targeting pro-life groups and benefitting organizations that support abortion.

An amendment that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) successfully inserted into the bill would increase family planning funding that could go to abortion promoters, would reinstate funding of the UN's Population Fund (UNFPA), and would provide a mechanism to enforce an Obama-era non-discrimination rule that could essentially "blacklist" pro-life groups from being eligible for U.S. foreign assistance.

Shaheen had previously tried to overturn the Mexico City Policy in an appropriations bill in September, but was unsuccessful.

The Mexico City Policy bars U.S. funding of foreign NGOs that promote or perform abortions as a method of family planning. The Trump administration reinstated this policy and expanded upon it, applying the funding prohibition not just to family planning funding, but to $8.8 billion of global health assistance.

While not outright repealing the policy, Shaheen was still able to secure passage of an amendment out of the Senate Appropriations Committee that could undercut it. Her proposed increase in family planning funding could also benefit certain domestic groups which promote abortion.

Pro-abortion groups including Pathfinder International, Population Council, Engender Health, and PATH already receive family planning funding. As they are domestic groups, they are not bound by the Mexico City Policy prohibitions, and thus can still promote abortions, March for Life Action says.

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Shaheen's amendment would also set up an enforcement mechanism of the 2016 Obama administration "Non-Discrimination Against End-Users of Supplies or Services" rule. This rule essentially required contractors with USAID not to "discriminate" against aid beneficiaries on the basis of sex, "including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy." 

The enforcement mechanism for the rule targets pro-life and Christian groups in that it would limit review of USAID contract awards "only to the current administration," March for Life Action's letter said, thus revealing the "real target": it would review the contract awards given to pro-life groups.

Thus, certain religious and pro-life organizations could have to clarify their positions on life, marriage, or gender issues in order to receive U.S. foreign assistance, McClusky said.

 "Pro-lifers do not have a ton of friends" at USAID and the State Department, McClusky said, and those agencies would be deciding which organizations would receive U.S. foreign assistance.

As the November 21 deadline nears to pass funding bills, the status quo-a short-term extension of funding, or a "CR"-would be the best-case scenario for pro-lifers, McClusky said, in that no new problems could be added to the legislation.

The larger and more complex the funding bill, the greater the chance pro-abortion language could be passed without popular knowledge, he said.

"If I think everything were to be a CR, I think that would be a good thing, because once you start getting into these minibuses and omnibuses, you don't always know what's inside them until it's too late," McClusky said.

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