Far-left activists barged into House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office Monday, linking arms and chanting, “Pass PEPFAR now, McCarthy!” The protest briefly interrupted staffers’ typically quiet Monday morning before Capitol police arrived and arrested seven protestors who refused to leave. The protest appears to be part of a larger media campaign by far-left groups, including abortion groups, to boost PEPFAR.
PEPFAR, or the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, is among America’s largest foreign aid programs, aiming to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS, primarily to women and children, in impoverished areas of the world. First passed 20 years ago under President Bush, PEPFAR has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support. But pro-life organizations recently raised concerns that the Biden administration is seeking to use the program as a way to promote abortion and have called for additional safeguards. PEPFAR’s five-year funding authorization expires at the end of the month.
Two far-left groups, Housing Works and Health GAP, took credit for the protest in a joint press release, proudly identifying the names and titles of the seven arrestees. Among the arrestees were Asia Russell, executive director of Health GAP, and six employees of Housing Works, including Charles King, CEO, and Matthew Bernardo, president.
Besides their AIDS advocacy, both organizations share a pro-abortion policy stance. Health GAP’s Asia Russell called the Mexico City Policy “cruel and anti-science” in a 2021 article which concluded, “the U.S. must never return to this deadly policy.” Russell was arrested while wearing a t-shirt that said “HIV positive” in rainbow-colored letters.
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On June 30, 2022, seven Housing Works staff were among 181 activists bused into D.C. to protest the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade and arrested for attempting to blockade the Supreme Court garage entrance. On May 2, 2022, the homelessness and AIDS organization responded to the leak of a draft opinion for Dobbs by posting, “#Abortion is healthcare, and healthcare is a human right.”
Health GAP advertised the protest on X, formerly known as Twitter, “We’re proud to be with @HealthGAP occupying the D.C. office of @SpeakerMcCarthy.” They declared, “Never in the twenty-year history of @PEPFAR have lawmakers pulled such outrageous stunts. Activists showed up today to demand a 5-year reauthorization of PEPFAR in its current form and full funding for US HIV programs #ProudofPEPFAR.”
A coalition of activists, aid organizations, and government entities supporting a straight, five-year reauthorization of PEPFAR have used the hashtag #ProudofPEPFAR to coordinate a social media campaign boosting the program’s benefits and successes. By using the hashtag, Health GAP tied their recent protest at McCarthy’s office to that campaign.
The coalition supporting a straight reauthorization of PEPFAR includes abortion advocacy groups. Among the groups using the hashtag #ProudOfPEPFAR is Fòs Feminista, which posted, “As proud members of @GappDC, we recognize #PEPFAR as one of the best examples of bipartisan U.S. global leadership. It has saved 25 million lives & ensured 5.5 million babies have been born HIV-free. ?? ?? #ProudOfPEPFAR.” Fòs Feminista (Spanish for “Feminist Force”) is explicitly pro-abortion, with its pinned tweet celebrating the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico.
“The fact that pro-abortion groups are concerned that PEPFAR might not be reauthorized should tell us all we need to know: that the PEPFAR program is being used to advance abortion interests,” Travis Weber, vice president for Policy and Government Affairs at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand. “Poor African countries do need our help. But instead of helping them in a way that honors their own culture, the powerful abortion and LGBT lobbies want to use U.S. tax dollars to force the West’s cultural agenda on them. We are telling African aid recipients to choose between our help and their values. We should be ashamed.”
Weber continued, “The U.S. should play no part in such ideological colonialism, and indeed should fully denounce it!”
LifeNews Note: Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand, where this column originally appeared.
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