BALTIMORE, July 18, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Catholic Relief Services is in the midst of distributing a projected $2.789 million grant to one of the leading voices in the international abortion movement.

The U.S. Bishops’ foreign relief agency is distributing the funds to Population Services International, a $670 million organization that markets abortion drugs in the developing world.

When questioned about the grant, CRS initially claimed PSI had merely sold them mosquito nets to combat malaria, but when presented with more information, the Catholic agency acknowledged that the abortion giant took a decidedly more active role.

News of the grant has Catholic pro-life leaders raising concern that the funds, though ostensibly for a good project, are merely empowering PSI to fulfill its founding mission of population control.

“Anything you do to empower [this organization], anything you do to help it, anything you do by way of funding it, for whatever stated purpose, is strengthening an organization that is just absolutely diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church and its teachings,” said Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute. “And to pretend otherwise is not just naïve, it is duplicitous.”

Founded in 1970 by porn baron Phil Harvey, who initially used his porn profits to fund PSI, the organization networks and trains local providers throughout the world to offer “safe abortion.”  The group’s “charity” work largely involves “stimulat[ing] demand” for contraceptives and abortion drugs among the world’s poor and then selling them the products. 

Mosher told LifeSiteNews.com that the reason PSI got involved in some legitimate health issues was to further its population control agenda. PSI first began tackling health issues such as malaria and safe water in the 1980s.

“They use the bait of health care or the bait of some form of aid to seduce women into coming into their clinics and availing themselves of their services, so they can be used as bribes, they can be used as sanctions,” he said. PSI “is first, last, and always a population control group,” he added, noting that it “promotes abortion, sterilization, contraception, always and everywhere.”

Investigating CRS’ connection with PSI

LifeSiteNews began investigating CRS’ relationship with PSI because the Catholic agency’s IRS filings for 2012 showed that they had given PSI a grant of $9,588 for “agriculture.”

Asked on Friday to explain the grant, CRS communications director John Rivera told LifeSiteNews that in late 2011 they had purchased water purification packets from PSI in Panama to help with water contamination following a major tropical storm.

“PSI was the vendor with the stocks nearby to respond to the emergency,” he said. “This helped to save lives from dysentery, cholera, and other water-borne diseases. The water purification packets were given to Caritas El Salvador and distributed to several dioceses in the coastal region as part of our joint CRS-Caritas disaster relief operation.”

Upon further investigation, LifeSiteNews discovered that CRS was given a grant of $26,939,110 by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to run a project combatting malaria in Guinea from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013. The grant agreement, signed December 13, 2011, indicates that CRS would award PSI $1,995,959 over the two year period to assist with the project. According to a grant performance report dated May 21, 2013, PSI signed the agreement with CRS on October 8, 2012, and agreed to take on more unspecified project activities on January 7, 2013.

CRS’ relationship with PSI goes back at least more than a decade. A page on the website of the Centers for Disease Control describes a safe water initiative in Madagascar, with an implementation date of April 2000, that CRS partnered on with PSI and CARE. Further, on its website PSI currently lists CRS as a partner in Zambia, Haiti, and Guinea. According to PSI’s webpage on Guinea, CRS partnered with them on a measles vaccination program there during 2009, in addition to its current funding relationship.

There is also movement of personnel between the organizations. In October 2011, CRS hired an HIV technical advisor after she had worked at PSI for three years. While at PSI, she had contributed to a paper on “global contraceptive needs.” Additionally, a member of PSI India’s board of governors indicates that he has worked for CRS in the past.

LifeSiteNews asked Rivera about CRS’ partnerships with PSI on Monday, and was told, “It may take awhile.” On Thursday morning, Rivera indicated that the Guinea grant was to purchase mosquito nets.

“CRS bought mosquito nets from PSI, the vendor designated by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which funded the project,” he said.

But on further questioning about the grant, including why PSI had needed to hire staff for the project – as indicated in the grant performance report – if they were merely a vendor, CRS acknowledged that PSI had taken a rather more active role in the project.

“To be clear, now that we have had more time to talk with staff involved in the project, the money did not go specifically to purchase the nets but rather to implement other parts of the grant which is focused on distributing 3 million nets and making sure they are properly used to save thousands of lives by preventing malaria,” wrote Michael Hill, CRS’ Senior Writer.

Hill said PSI’s grant grew to $2.789 million over the two-year period when PSI took over responsibilities from another sub-recipient that had dropped out before the project began. Part of those activities included “training and overseeing community health workers to educate households on malaria prevention, and training and overseeing community organizations which would organize anti-malaria themed events,” he said. He also noted that PSI is responsible for the mass-media marketing portion of the project.

“CRS did not choose PSI as a partner in the project,” Hill explained. “Rather PSI was selected as an implementing sub-recipient to the grant by the Global Fund’s Country Coordinating Mechanism, independent of CRS.” He stressed that PSI “was implementing activities related only to the prevention of malaria.”

PSI: Abortion, abortion, abortion

PSI is open about its promotion of abortion even on its own website. On its page about “reducing unsafe abortion,” the firm explains that it “works to increase access to WHO-approved medical abortion drugs.” Its website also mentions its provision of medical abortions in Cambodia and Nepal, noting that in Cambodia it launched the country’s “first safe medical abortion drug, known as Medabon.”

But what it states on its main website is just the beginning.

In India, PSI markets a “safe abort kit” and aimed to “facilitate … over 200,000 safe abortions using medical abortions” from 2008-2013 as part of a program that aims to network local clinics to insert IUDs and provide medical abortion drugs. The PSI India website, which is separate from the global organization’s website, indicates that they had succeeded in facilitating 2,774 medical abortions in the first year. The website says their work in India focuses “both on the demand and supply side” of the medical abortion and IUD markets, explaining that they promote the use of the products by “target[ing] audiences with information and messages using inter-personal; mid and mass media.”

The network that PSI has set up in India, begun in 2008, includes 908 clinics and 10,000 pharmacies in three Indian states, and has sold 229,398 IUDs, according to a program summary that was updated in May. At a national meeting of the country’s “Medical Abortion Consortium,” which PSI co-organized, one of their specialists explained that one of the aims of the program is to help local facilities get registered to offer abortion.

PSI also markets its own brand of condoms in India, stating on the PSI India website that it has sold over 2 billion.

In Nepal, PSI has played a central role in expanding abortion access after the country liberalized its abortion law in 2002, according to a 2012 article in the journal Reproductive Health. The article states that PSI has “trained local pharmacists to provide women with knowledge about medical abortion, referrals to abortion services and information on indications for legal abortion in Nepal.” It also says that they have served on a government team devoted to implementing the new law, joining groups like Marie Stopes International, the Family Planning Association of Nepal (IPPF’s local affiliate), and Ipas.

In Cambodia, in addition to marketing the country’s first legally registered medical abortion drug in 2009, the firm refers women to “safe surgical abortion clinics,” according to a presentation on their work in the country. The presentation also mentions that the group “subsidized the price of [medical abortion drugs] considerably to ensure availability to poor and vulnerable women of reproductive age.”

PSI is also a mainstay at pro-abortion conferences, and has posted numerous online job ads seeking employees to fulfill various roles in the organization’s campaign for globally-accessible abortion.

At the 2013 Women Deliver conference on May 31st, they organized a session on “making safe abortion care a clinical reality” and one of their employees was a panelist for a session dealing with methods to “increase access to safe abortion.”

On January 16, 2013, Daniel Crapper of PSI delivered a talk titled “Creating the misoprostol market” at the Global Maternal Health Conference in Tanzania. (See video here.) In his talk, Crapper indicates that PSI has "social marketing" programs for the abortion drug in 7 countries and talks about their strategies for promoting it.

The organization is listed as a participating sponsor at a conference in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010 dedicated to expanding access to medical abortion.

Regarding hiring, PSI has an active job ad – posted July 3rd and still open until August 1st – seeking someone who has “experience with safe abortion” to “oversee and coordinate … safe abortion … implementation” and to help “expand access to quality safe abortion … services and products.” The person must also “support countries as requested to advocate for use of [medical abortion] for safe abortion.”

A 2011 ad seeking a Deputy Director of Services for Kenya said the position had a focus on “increasing access to safe abortion services,” including “provid[ing] and organiz[ing] technical assistance to countries for training of trainers.” Among the needed qualifications was a “clinical proficiency [in] surgical and medication abortion.”

A 2012 ad sought a “maternal health consultant” to provide “technical guidance to PSI platforms implementing abortion, post abortion care, post partum hemorrhage programs,” and other programs. Another from 2012 sought a communications manager in Cambodia whose duties included managing PSI’s  “safe abortion” brand.

In addition to its work promoting medical and surgical abortions, PSI is a leader in the global movement to promote abortifacient “emergency contraception” pills. The organization is a member of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), and has a staff member on the steering committee. A Google search of the ICEC website turns up numerous examples of PSI’s promotion of abortifacients. Other Consortium members include the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Ipas, and Catholics for Choice.

‘They might as well be funding Planned Parenthood’

As with its controversial grants to the pro-abortion group CARE, CRS’ $2.7 million grant to PSI Guinea is “pass-through” funding, meaning that CRS acts as a principal recipient to a funding agency and then doles out part of the funds to sub-recipients.

CRS defended this “pass-through” funding to CARE last year, arguing that the funds are given only for projects in line with Catholic teaching and are not fungible because of the way the grant agreements are established.

But when asked at the time if CRS would give ‘pass-through’ funding to Planned Parenthood for a morally neutral project, they said no. “We would never partner with Planned Parenthood,” Rivera said last year. “We’ve given this a lot of consideration, and there’s a threshold in terms of what the focus of an agency is, and the preponderance of their work.”

But Michael Hichborn, director of American Life League’s Defend the Faith Project, said that the U.S. Bishops’ relief agency, in funding PSI, “might as well be funding Planned Parenthood.”

"Based upon the preponderance of the work PSI does, I would love for CRS to explain how giving it money is any different than funding Planned Parenthood, because the preponderance of PSI's work IS birth control and abortion,” said Hichborn.

"Whenever CRS gets caught funding groups like this, they wave their professed fidelity to the Catholic Church the way Nancy Pelosi professes that she's an ardent, practicing Catholic. Simply having a Catholic Identity document cannot in any way exonerate CRS from giving money to an organization like PSI.”

Mosher’s claim that PSI uses legitimate health issues like malaria to promote its population control agenda would appear to be supported by statements PSI made in a program description for a Madagascar project funded by USAID from 2008-2013, where the pro-abortion group describes how it views its work on malaria as “deeply intertwined” with its “reproductive health” agenda.

“Reproductive, maternal and child health and malaria are all deeply intertwined, affecting poor and vulnerable populations in rural areas together,” the organization writes. “Success (or failure) in one area, such as malaria, can free up resources to focus on other areas, or drag down progress.” Integrating these programs, they add, “offer[s] many opportunities to reach target audiences.”

In the same document on the Madagascar project, PSI indicates that it would be partnering on the project with CRS.

"Given that PSI made perfectly clear that its distribution of malaria drugs and mosquito nets is 'deeply intertwined' with pushing birth control on the poor, CRS can't claim that giving a grant to PSI is isolated only for fighting malaria,” said Hichborn. “PSI's own documents explain that pushing birth control is its primary focus."

Contact info:

Cardinal Robert Sarah
Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"
Palazzo San Pio X 
V-00120 Vatican City State
Phone: +39-06-69889411
Fax: +39-06-69887301 or +39-06-69887311
E-mail: corunum@corunum.va

Find contact information for all U.S. Bishops here.

Readers may also comment on Catholic Relief Services’ Facebook page.