Ask Congress to Investigate Catholic Relief Services

In March of 2020, the Lepanto Institute published two reports indicating that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) had partnered with abortion-promoting organizations as a part of two different US Federally-Funded projects. If these partnerships included the provision of Federal money to those organizations, then CRS would be in direct violation of the Mexico City Policy and the Siljander Amendment, which states that “none of the funds made available under [the appropriations act] may be used to lobby for or against abortion.”

Here’s what happened:

In Cameroon, CRS was the lead agency in a $7.6 million project funded by USAID called KIDSS. One aspect of the project was to create a health referral network that would send vulnerable children to various service-providers depending upon the needs of the child, including for sexual and reproductive health. Included in this network is an organization called RENATA. CRS’s partnership with RENATA was so close, it placed a job announcement on behalf of CRS for the KIDSS project itself.


In May of 2018, the very same month in which it was recruiting for CRS’s KIDSS project, RENATA took part in a “Needs Assessment on Safe Abortion Advocacy.” On page 17 of the Assessment, under the heading “Advocacy and measures to prevent unsafe abortions,” it states:

“Various organisations in Cameroon, such as women for change, IPPF, PSI, RENATA are advocating for safe abortion services, changing the legality conditions and provision of contraceptives.”

You can read the full report on CRS’s KIDSS project here.

In Nigeria, CRS was the lead agency in a $41 million, USAID-funded project called SMILE. As with the KIDSS project, CRS was again responsible for creating a health referral network. CRS’s implementing partner on the project was an organization called ActionAid, which not only advocates for abortion on its own website, but ActionAid also publicly denounced President Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which prevents federal funds from going to overseas organizations that promote or commit abortion. Calling the Mexico City Policy the “Global Gag Rule,” ActionAid gave full-throated support for access to abortion, saying, “ActionAid firmly believes that women should have access to their full range of sexual and reproductive rights, and this includes access to information and safe abortions.”

In addition to ActionAid, CRS also included an organization called the Girl’s Power Initiative (GPI) in the SMILE referral network. In June 2017 GPI signed on as a contributing NGO to the “NGO Coalition Shadow Report to the 7th & 8th Periodic Report of Nigeria on Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)” which states: “The government should consider the impact of its restrictive abortion law on the country’s maternal mortality ratio as recommended by the CEDAW Committee in 2004 and 2008, and reform its law to accord with its international and regional human rights obligations, including the Maputo Protocol.”

You can read the full report on CRS’s SMILE project here.

Page 83 of the Mexico City Policy requires organizations such as CRS to ensure that sub-recipients of foreign aid funding not to perform or promote abortion during the period in which it is receiving such funds.

II. Grants and Cooperative Agreements with U.S. Non-governmental Organizations 
(1) The recipient (A) agrees that it will not furnish health assistance under this award to any foreign non-governmental organization that performs or actively promotes abortion as a method of family planning in foreign countries; and (B) further agrees to require that such sub-recipients do not provide financial support to any other foreign non-governmental organization that conducts such activities. For purposes of this paragraph (a), a foreign non-governmental organization is a for-profit or not-for-profit non-governmental organization that is not organized under the laws of the United States, any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any other territory or possession of the United States. 
(2) Prior to entering into an agreement to furnish health assistance to a foreign non-governmental organization (sub-recipient) under this award, recipient must ensure that such agreement with sub-recipient includes the following terms:

(i) The sub-recipient will not, while receiving assistance under this award, perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in foreign countries or provide financial support to other foreign nongovernmental organizations that conduct such activities;

As can be clearly seen in the reports on KIDSS and SMILE, CRS’s sub partners on those projects were indeed advocating for abortion during the time of project implementation.

STEP 1: Sign the Petition

This is the most important step you can take: if you only have time to do one thing, take this step.  We’re calling on Catholics all over the country to sign the White House Petition asking Congress to investigate CRS for violation of the Mexico City Policy and the Siljander Amendment. If we can gather 100,000 signatures by June 30, 2020, the Whitehouse will provide us with an official response as to how they plan to address the issue!

Here’s what our petition says:

Investigate Catholic Relief Services for Funding Abortion Advocates
As Pro-Life Americans, we stand firmly with President Trump forbidding federal funding for abortion advocacy overseas, through the Mexico City Policy and Siljander Amendment. It is imperative that all organizations receiving Federal Funding abide by this policy, especially those claiming to be pro-life. A recent investigation by the Lepanto Institute has uncovered strong evidence that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has directly violated this policy in Cameroon (KIDSS Project) and in Nigeria (SMILE Project) by providing federal aid money to organizations that actively promote abortion. A Federal investigation is necessary for determining if CRS is in violation of these policies. Such a violation by an allegedly pro-life, Catholic organization could imply more egregious violations elsewhere.

If you agree that Congress should look into the possibility that CRS violated the Mexico City Policy, please sign the petition!

100,000 signatures by June 30, 2020


Time remaining until deadline

STEP 2: Contact Your Lawmakers

Here’s a sample letter you can use to craft your own letter to your lawmakers.  Enter just your zip code in the form below to find your federal lawmakers and their addresses.

Find Your Lawmakers

ex: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20500

STEP 3: Contact Your Bishop

Complete the form to email a message to your Bishop.  A draft message is provided which you can modify as desired.