Pompeo says US to expand ban on foreign aid to groups that provide or promote abortion

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoForeign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners Documentary groups challenge Trump administration's vetting of immigrants' social media Iran releases American graduate student in prisoner swap MORE on Tuesday announced an expansion of the so-called Mexico City policy that bans U.S. aid from going to foreign groups that promote or provide abortions. 

The expansion closes a loophole, Pompeo said at a press conference, that allowed nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign aid to fund other groups that support abortion.

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"This is decent, this is right and I’m proud to serve in an administration that protects the least amongst us,” Pompeo said.

"This administration has shown that we can continue to meet our critical global health goals, including providing health care for women, while refusing to subsidize the killing of unborn babies." 

Referred to by critics as the "global gag rule," the Mexico City policy was established by President Reagan in 1984 and is typically rescinded and reinstated by Democratic and Republican administrations, respectively. 

Trump reinstated and expanded the policy after his inauguration in 2017 to apply to more global health assistance programs, like those for HIV, maternal and child health and malaria. 

To qualify for the funding, groups have to certify that they won't perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning, even with funds from other non-U.S. sources. 

But Pompeo said the State Department will no longer provide global health funding to foreign groups that financially support other organizations that provide or promote abortions. 

Democrats who opposed the original Mexico City Policy said its expansion will be even more dangerous for women around the world. 

“This administration’s obsession with attacking women’s reproductive health is egregious and dangerous," said Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty Biden reveals four women he could pick as his running mate MORE (D-N.H.), the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"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."

Shaheen and House Appropriations Chair Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyAppropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) re-introduced a bill in February that would permanently repeal the policy, but it likely won't pass or be called for a vote while Republicans control the Senate and White House. 

"The Trump administration’s actions threaten access to critical services that prevent maternal deaths, treat HIV and Zika, and provide communities with lifesaving health care," Shaheen said.

Brett Samuels contributed to this report, which was updated at 11:19 a.m.