Some billionaire philanthropists spoke out against overturning Roe v. Wade — but that support doesn’t always translate to funding

Some billionaire philanthropists have publicly spoken out against the possible reversal of Roe v. Wade this week, but his support for access to abortion doesn’t always include funding it.

Both Microsoft MSFT,
Co-founder Bill Gates and his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, released statements after a leak indicated that the U.S. Supreme Court appears willing to overturn the historic decision on abortion rights. Bill Gates dit ending legalized abortion would push the U.S. back 50 years; Melinda French Gates dit“Every woman should have the right to decide if and when she has children.”

But the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a worldwide provider of contraceptive access, does not directly fund abortions, a spokesman for MarketWatch said.

Melinda French Gates once said the foundation could not support abortion because the issue was a political “hot potato” that could interfere with its long-term goals. “We have to be realistic and practical. We look forward to 30 or 40 years, “French Gates told the Sunday Times in the UK in 2010.” We need to be able to work with anyone. [U.S.] administration that enters the position, so we cannot enter the controversy ”.

But some of the Gates’ fellow elite philanthropists have been at the forefront and the center when it comes to spending money on abortion access. MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon AMZN,
Founder Jeff Bezos donated $ 275 million earlier this year to the Planned Parenthood national office and 21 of its state affiliates. It was the greatest gift in the history of the organization.

Michael Bloomberg, one of the country’s most prolific philanthropists, has donated $ 50 million over the years “to support reproductive rights in the United States, including recent $ 14 million donations to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund , the Center for Reproductive Rights and Collaboration for Gender + Reproductive Equity, “he said in an opinion piece earlier this year. One of his first acts as mayor of New York City was to demand that public hospitals “teach all OB-GYN residents reproductive care, including how to perform abortions safely,” he added.

Bloomberg he tweeted this week reversing Roe would be “a mistake of historic proportions.”

The important but quiet role of Warren Buffett in accessing abortion

The main private contributor to access to abortion, according to some measures, is the one that keeps its funding activities mainly under the radar. That would be the Gates’ longtime philanthropic friend and partner, Warren Buffett, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A.
and a former board member of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Buffett has been a major financial advocate for access to abortion and reproductive rights for decades. The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after Buffett’s late wife and funded by Berkshire Hathaway shares, has distributed approximately $ 500 million to $ 700 million annually in recent years, but rarely publishes its grants in press releases. press. His website describes the funding of college scholarships for Nebraska students, but nothing more, and states that the foundation will not respond to inquiries about anything other than scholarships.

But between 2015 and 2019, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation was the largest funder of reproductive rights, including access to abortion, and the largest funder of abortion funds, according to a National Committee data analysis. for Candid’s Responsive Philanthropy, an organization that tracks nonprofits and foundations. (Abortion funds are groups that help people pay for abortions and related costs, including travel, lodging, and child care).

The 6 main funders of reproductive rights, 2015-2019

Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation

Ford Foundation

Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund *

The JPB Foundation

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

* Donor-advised fund; not a base

Source: Candid / National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

In 2020, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation donated more than $ 647 million, most of which went to reproductive rights causes, including gifts to national abortion fund networks, individual state abortion funds, Planned Parenthood, abortion provider support groups and abortion rights groups for black and Latino women, according to their latest submission to the IRS.

In the 1990s, the foundation helped pay for research to develop the abortion pill RU-486, an effort that the then New York chapter director of the National Abortion Rights Action League described as “heroic.” of the press of the time.

Buffett’s late wife was transferred to fund access to abortion and family planning initiatives after she saw poor living conditions in the developing world, especially among women, according to a 1995 Globe and Mail story. on the couple’s donation. Buffett’s own commitment to funding abortion stemmed from an interest in controlling the population. “Warren conceptualized it in macroeconomic terms,” ​​the Globe and Mail reported. “I had a Malthusian fear that overpopulation would aggravate problems in all other areas, such as food, housing, and even human survival.”

The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and Berkshire Hathaway did not respond to requests for comment.

Major funders of the “right to life” include a charity founded by faith-based money managers

One of the main philanthropies behind restricting access to abortion is the National Christian Foundation, which donated more than $ 17 million to “right to life” groups between 2006 and 2020, according to the National Committee. for Responsive Philanthropy.

During this period, the National Christian Foundation was the leading donor in Candid’s “right to life” category, which includes groups “working to pass legislation or other social measures that seek to cede legal rights to an unborn human being.” and seeks to criminalize termination. ” (The category is only part of the anti-abortion sector; it does not include entities such as crisis pregnancy centers that seek to persuade people not to have an abortion).

NCF is a non-profit charity that sponsors donor-advised funds, meaning donors contribute money and then recommend which organizations should receive their donations, a spokesman for MarketWatch said. Founded in 1982, NCF has distributed more than $ 14.5 billion in grants to charities “providing clean water to the thirsty, rescuing victims of human trafficking, translating the Bible into new languages ​​and more,” said spokesman Steve Chapman. .

The founders of the National Christian Foundation include Ron Blue, founder of the faith-based wealth management firm Ronald Blue & Co., which had $ 7 billion in assets under management when it was sold to Thrivent Trust in 2017. and the late Larry Burkett, founder of the Crown finance ministries, non-profit, “Christ-centered and Bible-based.”

Main funders of “Right to Life” organizations, 2006-2020

National Christian Charitable Foundation, Inc. *

Arthur S. Demoss Foundation

Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund *

Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program

Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Foundation

God’s gift

* donor-advised fund, not a foundation

Source: Candid / National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

Melinda French Gates has criticism on both sides of the abortion debate

The Gates Foundation’s balancing act of advocating for family planning and birth control without directly funding abortion has drawn criticism, especially from Melinda French Gates.

The foundation was in favor of contraception and population control in its early days, and anti-abortion groups visited Microsoft headquarters in 1999 to protest Gates Foundation grants to the International Planned Parenthood Federation. the Seattle Post-Intelligencer then reported. A spokesman for the Gates Foundation said at the time that the foundation was funding women’s reproductive health programs, but said: “We have never made a grant for abortion services.” It was one of the first of many public statements made by the foundation explaining that it does not pay for abortions.

In later years, the foundation shifted its focus to curing disease and developing vaccines, but in 2012 Melinda French Gates announced a “new crusade” and set a goal of getting 120 million women to control birth rate by 2020. He then said the effort was not about “coercive population control or abortion.” The initiative made Melinda French Gates, a practicing Catholic, the target of criticism from church leaders who said she was betraying her faith.

In an interview, he responded to questions about the anti-birth control position of Catholicism by saying that supporting family planning was in line with the Catholic Church’s commitment to social justice. “I believe in not letting women die,” Gates said at the time. The foundation then estimated that its mission to provide birth control to 120 million women could prevent 50 million abortions, the Vancouver Sun reported.

But letting women die is precisely what some health officials have accused the Gates Foundation of not funding abortion. In 2010, the editor of the medical journal The Lancet said it was “outrageous” that the Gates Foundation did not use its resources to provide safe abortions, given that approximately 68,000 women a year then died from miscarriages. , the Sunday Times. reported.

In 2014, Melinda French Gates reiterated that the abortion controversy, in her opinion, “threatened to enter the consensus of saving lives when it comes to basic family planning.” The Gates Foundation had decided not to fund abortions, she said, and she “decided not to participate publicly.”

Their relative silence and the silence of the Gates Foundation, a global health leader that sets the agenda, upset some critics who said powerful institutions should emphasize the role of access to safe abortion. in women’s health.

It remains to be seen whether Melinda French Gates could change her position as she focuses more on her own philanthropy following her separation from Bill Gates. Your company, Pivotal Ventures, did not respond to a request for comment.

Speaking at the Gates Foundation, where Melinda French Gates remains a trustee, a spokeswoman said: “We believe that achieving a more gender-equitable world begins with ensuring that women and girls have autonomy over their health, their “Every woman should have the right to decide if she has children and when. Our goal is to ensure women’s health and access to family planning. We do not fund abortions directly.”

They added: “We support a broad coalition of partners that supports the needs of women throughout their lives, from good nutrition at every stage of life, access to family planning services and reproductive health from adolescence or prenatal and prenatal care when they have children. ”

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