June 16, 2017
Cutting 28 percent of the State Department's budget is no easy task. But Secretary Rex Tillerson got a great head start, thanks to the White House's decision to ax billions of dollars in overseas abortion funding. Pro-lifers let out a huge cheer last month when President Trump not only reinstated the Mexico City policy but expanded the rule to an $8.8 billion pool of foreign aid. Under his new order, more than 15 times the money will be freed up by the abortion ban than even President Bush's policy! For once, taxpayers can truly wash their hands of government supported abortion, knowing that their dollars are being redirected to organizations that aren't a front for abortion -- but offer real medical care.
Four weeks later, Democrats are still beside themselves. After eight years of funneling money to international friends of Planned Parenthood, liberals are struggling to come to grips with the idea that global aid should do exactly that: help. Not harm. At a string of congressional hearings, Secretary Tillerson has taken his share of shots from the Left, which insists that Trump's position (which happens to be shared by overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Democrats) could hurt millions of America's neighbors. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who's tried (unsuccessfully) to make Obama's global abortion allowance permanent, tried to box in Tillerson with the typical bait. First, she asked if the State Department would reconsider the rule if it showed an uptick in "negative health outcomes." Tillerson didn't budge. "Would you be comfortable with such an impact to women's health?" she fired back. Without blinking, the secretary said again, "We will carry out [the Mexico City policy] consistent with the President's order."
The political pressure cooker continued Wednesday, when Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) picked up where Senator Shaheen left off. Using the same playbook, he asked if people seemed to be suffering from the lack of care, would Tillerson recommending rolling back the Mexico City policy. The secretary replied that he would be meeting with overseas groups to alleviate any concerns. Regardless, he made it clear that he wouldn't recommend a policy reversal. If there was evidence of "hardship," Tillerson went on, the State Department would handle it. That's when the secretary went off script. He told Bera that he was open to issuing waivers to certain organizations if he and HHS Secretary Tom Price thought it was necessary. Immediately, the red flags went up.
Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who's been one of the biggest proponents of ending the gravy train for international abortion groups, sounded the alarm at even the suggestion of watering down the policy. Offering exemptions is a terrible idea, he pointed out. "Global health ought to be inclusive not exclusive of unborn children." Waivers "would have the perverse impact of incentivizing foreign [non-governmental organizations] to be non-compliant with the Mexico City Policy," he went on. "The only groups that didn't comply when the policy was last in place under the George W. Bush administration were abortion giants International Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International" -- two of the culture of death's biggest sellers.
Unfortunately, Tillerson isn't the only one raising eyebrows on Trump's team. At the Commerce Department, new boss Wilbur Ross may have caved to LGBT heat over a common-sense rewrite of the agency's "equal employment policy." Like us, Commerce officials don't agree that people who identify as gay or transgender should get special treatment under law. Right off the bat, the agency reversed unilateral modifications made by the Obama administration that included "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" from the long list of protected classes in the department's "anti-discrimination" policy. All employees should have the same right to live and work without harassment. Elevating one group above another for what they do behind closed doors is, as we have seen, a dangerous and demoralizing concept.
According to reports, Commerce's stand was short-lived. When LGBT activists made a stink about the change, Ross raced to reverse himself. "To be clear, the Department's [Equal Employment Opportunity] policy statement was never intended to change the policy or exclude any protected categories. The Department of Commerce policy remains that we do not discriminate on the basis of transgender status and sexual orientation. Department employees will continue to enjoy the fullest extent of the protections of all the non-discrimination laws."
And here's the irony: in catering to the Left, Ross didn't change a thing. As even BuzzFeed points out, "...[T]he exclusion [did] not affect the legal rights of LGBT employees at the department..." It was a disappointing show of cowardice from an administration that's been anything but weak-kneed. The Obama administration didn't apologize for the "change" they brought to America eight years ago, so there is no need for the new team to apologize for restoring sanity to our nation's policy now.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.