On Monday, demonstrators invaded the office of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to demand that lawmakers renew funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The protesters chanted- “PASS PEPFAR NOW!” before Capitol Police detained them.
The much-lauded program has been entangled in the dispute over abortion, and Congress is probably poised to blow past a Sept. 30 deadline to re-up the statute controlling the United States’ worldwide HIV/AIDS relief efforts.
There is concern among the Republican majority in the House that some of the $7 billion spent yearly on the program benefits groups that provide abortion services.
House Global Health Subcommittee Chairman and New Jersey Republican Chris Smith is spearheading the case against renewing PEPFAR unless anti-abortion restrictions, which were repealed by the Biden administration in 2021, are reinstalled.
Groups who receive PEPFAR monies would be unable to deliver abortions or even discuss the possibility of abortion if these limitations were in place.
Over the August vacation, he and Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) teamed up with other Capitol Hill conservatives to strong-arm fellow Republicans in both houses. The first is that PEPFAR would continue to get financing even if the statute controlling it were to expire, and the second is that the program has been “hijacked” by the Biden administration to promote abortion access in developing countries.
Since its start in 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been credited with saving millions of lives throughout Africa.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair and Texan Republican Michael McCaul announced he is drafting legislation to extend the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, though it may be shorter than the usual five-year extension and include new language to appease anti-abortion groups.
McCaul said he and former President George W. Bush discussed the bill’s fate over lunch in Kennebunkport, Maine, not long ago. Legislative aides and proponents for the PEPFAR statute have said that the president’s efforts are part of an effort to preserve the program that he helped develop in 2003, credited with saving the lives of 25 million people.