Trump’s Nominee to Lead US Foreign Aid Agency is No Champion for Women’s Health

President Trump’s nominee to head the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Mark Green, brings experience in both politics and development. However, he also has an extremely questionable voting record on women’s health and rights—issues of great importance to the agency he has been tapped to lead.

Unlike many other Trump nominees, Ambassador Green brings significant experience to this position. Following four terms as a Congressman for Wisconsin, Green served as ambassador to Tanzania during the presidency of George W. Bush. He currently serves as the President of the International Republican Institute and was previously on the board of directors at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. He has also worked with Malaria No More and the Initiative for Global Development. Many in the international development community will take comfort in his support for foreign assistance spending and will look to him to push back against the Trump Administration’s efforts to slash spending and cut the federal workforce.

However, his record on reproductive rights and women’s health is not as encouraging. During his tenure in Congress, Ambassador Green repeatedly voted for ideologically driven policies that restrict women’s control over their bodies and limit access to a full range of reproductive health care. As a member of the House of Representatives, he earned a 0 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America for consistently voting against abortion rights. He voted in favor of a provision to maintain the President’s ability to use the Global Gag Rule to prohibit family planning funding to foreign organizations that provide abortion services, counseling, and referrals—allowing international access to abortion services to remain at the whim of politicians in Washington.

While in Congress, Ambassador Green also voted for legislation making it a crime to harm a fetus and for legislation banning so-called “partial birth” abortions.  He voted against human embryonic stem cell research. He supported bills that made it more difficult for minors to access abortion services and voted to expand “conscience clauses” that allow providers to refuse to provide abortions.

Given that, if confirmed, Green would lead an agency that is the largest funder of reproductive health services in the world, these votes are cause for significant concern. The International Women’s Health Coalition urges members of the Senate to raise questions about his anti-choice views and record during his confirmation hearing and to ask him how he will uphold women’s reproductive rights if confirmed as Administrator of USAID.

Additionally, protecting funding for key programs alone will not be enough to ensure continued progress toward international development priorities. If confirmed, Ambassador Green cannot merely seek to prevent the financial gutting of foreign assistance, he also must work to continue the move toward evidence-driven policies and programs.

Ambassador Green is credited with playing a key role in setting up the US Government’s hallmark global HIV initiative, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). But the program he helped establish included religiously-motivated policies like abstinence-only sex education and prohibited funding evidence-based interventions, like needle exchange.

PEPFAR has come a long way in the past decade and a half; the program now takes a robust and evidence-driven approach to prevention that prioritizes young women and adolescent girls—who are disproportionately affected. Continued funding for development and health programs will not be enough if we return to the dangerous policies of the past and invest in initiatives—such as abstinence-only education—that don’t work.

As attention now turns to his confirmation process in the US Senate, IWHC will look for answers about how Ambassador Green intends to promote both foreign assistance and sound health policy. In his new role, he cannot allow ideology to trump science when it comes to women’s health and rights.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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