Recently, the Republican National Convention accidentally leaked a draft of the party’s foreign policy platform. The subsection on foreign aid contained a rather peculiar criticism of President Obama’s policy in the area:
The effectiveness of our foreign aid has been limited by the cultural agenda of the current Administration, attempting to impose on foreign countries, especially the peoples of Africa, legalized abortion and the homosexual rights agenda. At the same time, faith-based groups — the sector that has had the best track record in promoting lasting development — have been excluded from grants because they will not conform to the administration’s social agenda. We will reverse this tragic course, encourage more involvement by the most effective aid organizations, and trust developing peoples to build their future from the ground up.
The phrase “homosexual agenda” is, historically speaking, a term used by anti-gay crusaders to imply that people asking for equal rights have some kind of sinister plan for society. And while it’s true that the Obama campaign has worked to protect gay rights internationally, foreign aid dollars aren’t going to marriage equality campaigns — U.S. money is being used to finance legal and journalistic efforts to protect LGBT Africans from being murdered or jailed for their sexual orientation, a point the President made clear in an official memo on the topic:
I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation…Agencies engaged abroad are directed to strengthen existing efforts to effectively combat the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBT status or conduct and to expand efforts to combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct.
Indeed, U.S. pressure on this front caused Malawi, which had recently sentenced a gay couple to 14 years in prison for having sex, to rethink its radically anti-gay laws. Both Liberia and Uganda have proposed executing gay citizens as part of a continent-wide wave of anti-gay legislation aided and abetted by the American Christian Right. Further, anti-gay stigma and legislation contribute significantly to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, suggesting that confronting these problems is critical to addressing the health issues foreign aid is supposed to address.
The criticism of the Administration for imposing “legalized abortion” on African populations is also off-base, as foreign aid has not been used to pressure any country into legalizing abortion. In reality, President Obama’s decision to reverse the Bush-era “global gag rule” that forced foreign aid groups to pledge to have nothing to do with abortion services has significantly improved USAID’s ability to provide effective health care to women in need. The type of faith-based, abstinence-only aid preferred by the GOP, by contrast, has failed to curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS in at least one of the countries where it was heavily used — Uganda.
Vice Presidential Candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’s 2012 budget calls for heavy cuts to foreign aid programs.