| WASHINGTON, March 6
WASHINGTON, March 6 Two of President Donald
Trump's fellow Republicans joined four Democrats on Monday in
demanding that the White House provide more information about an
executive order that has sown confusion among international
organizations involved in family planning, AIDS treatment and
other healthcare issues.
In one of his first actions as president, Trump signed an
executive order on Jan. 23 reinstating the so-called Mexico City
policy, known by critics as the "global gag" rule, which
withholds U.S. funding for international organizations that
perform abortions or provide information about abortion.
Although other Republican presidents have also adopted the
policy, Trump broadened the scope to all global health
assistance, "which may encompass as much as fifteen times more
federal funding than previous Republican administrations'
versions of this policy," the six senators wrote in the letter,
which was seen by Reuters.
The order withholds half a billion dollars or more in U.S.
funds, and aid groups said it was issued with so little guidance
that they have been scrambling to figure out how to proceed.
In the letter, the senators said Trump's broader order now
includes the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)
and all other global health programs funded through the
Department of State, Agency for International Development and
Department of Health and Human Services.
PEPFAR, which enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress,
is the largest provider of AIDS-fighting medicine in the world,
and has been credited with saving millions of lives.
"This directive ... has caused mass confusion among federal
agencies and international relief organizations. While they wait
for clarity from this administration, there's been a global
chilling effect on life-saving work," said Democratic Senator
Jeanne Shaheen, who organized the letter.
Among other things, the senators asked if Trump's
administration had conducted a cost-benefit assessment of the
policy, whether it had determined how many lives might be saved
or lost or whether it had researched how transmission of
diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Zika might be affected.
Besides Shaheen, the letter was signed by Republican
Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Democrats Ben Cardin
and Richard Blumenthal and Angus King, an independent who
caucuses with Democrats.
The Trump administration is planning to submit a budget
proposing steep cuts in spending on the U.S. State Department
and foreign aid. Several Republican members of Congress have
expressed reservations about that plan.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)