US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Tuesday the expansion of the Trump administration's ban on US aid to groups that promote or provide abortions.
Pompeo said he's extended the ban to include organizations that may follow the rules while simultaneously passing funding along to other groups that don't.
The secretary said the Trump administration will not allow American taxpayer money to pay for "backdoor funding schemes" for abortion.
"The American people should rest assured that this administration and this State Department and our USAID will do all we can to safeguard US taxpayer dollars and protect and respect the sanctity of life for people all around the globe," Pompeo said.
Pompeo said the administration was committed to protecting "the sanctity of life" in the United States and abroad and would enforce the policy "to the broadest extent possible" by not allowing foreign non-governmental organizations to skirt the ban.
"We will refuse to provide assistance to foreign NGOs that give financial support to other foreign groups in the global abortion industry," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. "We will enforce a strict prohibition on backdoor funding schemes and end runs around our policy. American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions."
Critics say this hurts reproductive and maternal health care in developing nations.
Pompeo denied that claim and said the US would continue to be a leader in such aid. The US spends $9 billion to support global health programs. It wasn't immediately clear how much would be cut, but pro-choice advocates were furious at the news.
"This administration's obsession with attacking women's reproductive health is egregious and dangerous," Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-NH) said. "Further expanding the global gag rule puts international organizations in an impossible position: provide women the full scope of reproductive health care services or deny critical funding that saves lives. That is unconscionable."
Pro-life groups welcomed the move.
The Susan B. Anthony Fund praised Pompeo's decision in a statement, saying: "We are excited to see Secretary Pompeo taking additional steps to ensure that Americans' hard-earned dollars are actually used for health assistance, not funneled to groups that push abortion."