Green Watch

Pathfinder International Uses Your Tax Dollars to Fund Abortions in Africa

How a Massachusetts-based nonprofit you’ve never heard of spent $1 billion in a decade pushing overseas population control—thanks to funding from Uncle Sam


The most despicable thing about population control is its supporters’ hatred of human life. The second-most despicable part is their demand that you pay for their radical beliefs.

That’s the real genius of the misanthropic Left: rebranding anti-human policies as “health care” and then getting the government to subsidize them. That means using your tax dollars to fund causes you may loathe or simply don’t wish to underwrite.

Most people are familiar with the largest of these groups: Planned Parenthood, the biggest abortion provider in America, which raked in as much as $1.5 billion from 2013 to 2015.

Far fewer have heard of Pathfinder International, which spent nearly $1 billion between 2009 and 2018 pushing “family planning” on Asia, Africa, and Latin America—much of it funded by the U.S. government.

Since 2005, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—the agency responsible for funding overseas development—has awarded a staggering $972 million to fund Pathfinder’s population control policies. Almost all that spending focused on Africa, where Pathfinder has spent the most money pushing abortion on demand.

That’s nearly $1 billion of your tax dollars spent to prevent human life in the name of “development.”

Lois Quam is CEO of Pathfinder and a standby among the liberal elite. Quam was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Before that, she headed Obama’s $63 billion Global Health Initiative as part of Clinton’s State Department and was COO of the liberal Nature Conservancy. She’s a prominent Democratic donor and has given tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee, Hillary’s PAC, and the Minnesota Democratic Party.

Population control pays well, too—Quam raked in $407,000 in total compensation in 2017, according to the group’s latest IRS filing.

Pathfinder’s Unsavory Origins

Considering Pathfinder’s origins, it isn’t surprising that the group wants to expand abortion in poor nations. Pathfinder and Planned Parenthood are like cousins born at a time when progressives weren’t shy about their desire to stop supposedly inferior people from having children—people Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger called the “unfit.”

Pathfinder was founded by Clarence “C.J.” Gamble, one of Sanger’s most devoted admirers, heir to the Procter & Gamble soap fortune, and a committed eugenicist and family planning advocate. Many critics of Planned Parenthood are familiar with Sanger’s 1939 letter detailing her desire that “we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population” (often misread to imply Sanger wanted their extermination rather than feared the perception of wanting it). Few realize that Gamble was the letter’s recipient.

Gamble actually helped devise the so-called Negro Project of the South referred to in Sanger’s letter, which used black ministers to spread birth control techniques among southern blacks—what Gamble referred to as the “uneducated masses.” He was even a board member for the American Birth Control League, the predecessor to Planned Parenthood.

The Negro Project’s goal may not have been genocide, but it certainly did aim to reduce the black population. (It’s worth noting that Planned Parenthood continues to half-heartedly support Sanger’s goals for the Negro Project.) Gamble himself continued to expand similar projects throughout the South, personally paying for North Carolina to expand the number of birth control clinics in the state from 3 to 62 in half a decade, second only to New York. (In 1938, North Carolina had 3 percent of the U.S. population but 13 percent of its birth control clinics.)

Too Many Africans?

While Planned Parenthood pushed population control policies on Americans, Pathfinder took its malice overseas.

From 2009 to mid-2018, Pathfinder spent nearly $746 million in sub-Saharan Africa, much of it on abortion access. Africa is the largest recipient of Pathfinder funds by far, receiving almost seven times as much Pathfinder funding as the next-largest recipient region, South Asia. In fact, Pathfinder funds every region of the world except for North America and Europe—places that already have loose abortion laws.

No doubt some of that money has been used to address genuine health care issues, such as medical care for children. But abortion is the common theme to all of Pathfinder’s projects, which include:

  • “Contraception and family planning”
  • “Population, health, and environment”
  • “Safe abortion care”

In fact, Pathfinder refers to itself and its allies as “global advocates for women’s comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights,” and it brags about its attempts to push abortion on demand in the developing world.

In 2016, the group published a 12-page strategy manual to “advance abortion rights and access” in countries with strict abortion laws in which it brags about helping to overturn abortion laws in “countries hostile to abortion.” It was part of the Expanding Safe Abortion Access coalition in Mozambique from 2007 to 2016, which was funded by Planned Parenthood and resulted in expanded abortion access in that country. Pathfinder also brags that it funded a two-year campaign in Burkina Faso to implement a “youth-oriented” “abortion advocacy strategy at the national level.”

Mexico City Policy Under Attack

So who’s funding this global campaign against life?

Pathfinder does receive substantial funding from private foundations: $213 million between 1999 and mid-2018, in fact. Its biggest grantor at $63 million is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has also given more than $82 million to Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. Nearly all of the grants to Pathfinder from the Gates Foundation are for “family planning,” which isn’t surprising considering Gates’ campaign for African birth control.

In 2012, the Gates Foundation co-sponsored the Summit on Family Planning with the British government with the goal of providing “120 million women in the world’s poorest countries with access to contraceptives by 2020,” mainly in Africa. In 2016, the foundation announced that it would spend $5 billion on “health-related issues” in Africa over five years.

But a huge part of Pathfinder’s funding comes from USAID, the agency responsible for funding overseas development. USASpending.gov details an incredible $972 million in grants and contracts for Pathfinder’s far-left agenda. A huge part of that federal funding supported “family planning and reproductive health” (read: abortion access and birth control).

A $270 million USAID grant went toward “reproductive health services.” Another $82.7 grant supported similar reproductive health care. Nearly $50 million was spent to “improve accessibility for contraceptive” services in Ethiopia, where USAID gave Pathfinder another $79 million to increase “family planning services.” And the agency gave more than $2 million “to increase demand for and utilization of family planning methods” in Mozambique.

As you might expect, the Obama administration opened the floodgates to Pathfinder. Between 2009 and 2016 the group was awarded $627 million from USAID—about $90 million each year—far exceeding the $237 million the group received during the latter half of the Bush administration (2005–2008). (Recall that Pathfinder CEO Lois Quam worked in the Obama administration under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)

Shamefully, it’s still federally funded under the Trump administration. Since 2017, Pathfinder’s been awarded $105 million from USAID.

As expected, Pathfinder lobbies Washington for more funding of overseas abortions. In 2017, it demanded President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress support federal funding of abortion. The group has also attacked the Mexico City Policy, a policy instituted by President Ronald Reagan that bans federal funding of groups that support abortion overseas. (Subsequent Democratic presidents have rescinded the policy, and Republican presidents have reinstated it, most recently Trump in 2017.) Pathfinder criticizes the policy, calling it the “global gag rule” and a “punitive policy.”

More concerning still is a bill proposed in October 2019 by Senate Democrats that would provide another $60 million funding to pro-abortion groups, including Pathfinder and the U.N. Population Fund, which funds abortion in poor countries. The funding would effectively bypass the Mexico City Policy altogether. (President Trump blocked American funding of the U.N. Population Fund starting in 2017.)

Pushing abortion on Africa isn’t “health”—it’s imperialism. By any other name, policies designed by and paid for Americans that abort poor Africans would be called racist. To the Left, it’s merely “progress.”

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is an Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. He is a native of Orange County, California, and holds a Master’s of Public Policy from George Mason University.
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