Former President George W. Bush called on Congress to pass a five-year reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in a new op-ed published Wednesday, warning it would be a source of national shame if allowed to expire at the end of this month.
PEPFAR was started in 2003 during Bush’s administration and is considered to be among the nation’s most consequential public health and diplomacy programs. It was last reauthorized in 2018 and is set to expire Sept. 30.
The reauthorization bill usually receives widespread bipartisan support, but some House Republicans are stalling on reauthorization, arguing PEPFAR funds are being used to fund abortions overseas.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who penned the House’s reauthorization of PEPFAR in 2018, claims the Biden administration “hijacked” the program and facilitated funds to go toward abortion services.
In an op-ed published by The Washington Post, Bush said an estimated 25 million lives have been saved as a result of PEPFAR.
“The reauthorization is stalled because of questions about whether PEPFAR’s implementation under the current administration is sufficiently pro-life,” Bush said. “But there is no program more pro-life than one which has saved more than 25 million lives. I urge Congress to reauthorize PEPFAR for another five years without delay.”
PEPFAR reauthorization is not needed for the program to continue receiving funding, but it would allow the program’s policies and requirements to be updated.
“We are on the verge of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. To abandon our commitment now would forfeit two decades of unimaginable progress and raise further questions about the worth of America’s word,” wrote Bush.
Source: The Hill