Melinda Gates Now Biggest Catholic Donor to Pro-Abortion Causes in the World

The billionaire philanthropist pledges $200 million to ‘reproductive freedom,’ among other things.

Melinda French Gates arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace, amid the New Global Financial Pact Summit in Paris on June 23, 2023.
Melinda French Gates arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace, amid the New Global Financial Pact Summit in Paris on June 23, 2023. (photo: Christian Liewig / Corbis/Getty Images)

For years, Melinda French Gates, who identifies as a Catholic, said she struggled with abortion as a public-policy issue and wouldn’t give money to it from the foundation she helped run with her now-former husband, Bill.

The struggle appears to be over.

Gates, who has written fondly about her Catholic upbringing, said this week she is giving multimillion-dollar donations to abortion-supporting groups.

The May 28 announcement saddened pro-lifers.

“Melinda French Gates could do much to help women and their preborn children on the national — and even international level — yet she has decided instead to pour money into the abortion industry that already makes billions of dollars by taking the lives of innocent preborn children,” Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told the Register. 

“Tragically, this kind of ‘help’ destroys lives and damages women.”

Gates, a major donor and advocate for increasing access to oral contraceptives around the world, now plans to give tens of millions of dollars to support abortion, as well, through Pivotal Ventures, a foundation she started in 2015.

The Register asked the foundation for comment on why she has shifted her rhetoric on abortion and how she engages with Catholic teaching on abortion. 

A spokesman for Pivotal Ventures Foundation responded by email: “Melinda’s focus on women’s power and influence hasn’t changed. She believes that health is a critical lever in enabling women to have their full power in society. Pivotal already funds organizations working across the reproductive health continuum, and this new commitment will include groups working on reproductive rights.” 


Melinda Gates and Catholicism

The word “Catholic” appears in the second sentence of Melinda Gates’ 2019 book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.

After high school at Ursuline Academy — to which she has since given multimillion-dollar grants — Gates majored in computer science at Duke University, where she also earned a master’s degree in business administration.

Her first job out of school, in 1987, was with Microsoft. There, she met the company’s co-founder, Bill Gates, who was raised in the Congregational Church. They married in 1994 and had three children.

“On a cliff high above the Pacific Ocean, at the twelfth tee of a golf course, Bill and Melinda exchanged vows. Melinda, a devout Catholic, wanted a religious wedding. At the end of the short Roman Catholic ceremony, Bill slipped a wedding ring on Melinda’s finger,” author Jeanne M. Lisinski writes in her 2009 book, Bill Gates: Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

Almost 25 years later, in October 2019, Melinda Gates started divorce proceedings against her husband, around the time The New York Times reported that Bill Gates had met multiple times with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein after Epstein’s convictions for soliciting prostitution from an underage girl. The divorce was announced in May 2021.

Melinda remained part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after the divorce, but she announced two weeks ago, on May 13, that she will leave the foundation on June 7, focusing instead on Pivotal Ventures Foundation.

Forbes estimates Melinda Gates’ net worth at $11 billion. (Bill’s, according to Forbes, is about $128 billion.)


Lots of Money

At least six of the 16 nonprofit organizations Gates is giving a total of about $200 million through Pivotal Ventures explicitly advocate for abortions. At least one helps pay for abortions.

Gates’ new grants are “aimed at supercharging the work of organizations that are fighting in the U.S. to advance women’s power and protect their rights, including reproductive freedom,” Gates’ foundation announced earlier this week.

The money is part of $1 billion Gates plans to donate “to advance women’s power globally,” according to the foundation’s website.

Among the abortion-supporting recipients of Gates’ largesse are:

  • Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy organization headquartered in New York City founded in 1992, advocates for abortion-friendly laws in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the United States. The organization reported for its fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, gross receipts of about $66.8 million, according to its Internal Revenue Service Form 990.
  • The Collaborative for Gender + Reproductive Equity, founded in 2018 in New York City by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, provides money to other organizations. The collaborative was founded “to bring new money and new donors into work around gender and reproductive equity” and to stop contraception and abortion from being kept separate “from other gender-equity issues, whether that is childcare, paid leave, pay equity, or LGBTQ rights,” according to a March 2023 interview.
  • National Women’s Law Center is a legal advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., whose website includes a landing page with the headline “Abortion Always.” The law center reported for its fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, gross receipts of about $25 million.
  • Collective Future Fund is a feminist organization founded in 2020 that gives money to other organizations. Its grant recipients include the National Network of Abortion Funds, which pays for abortions. The Collective Future Fund drew support in July 2020 from Mackenzie Scott, the billionaire ex-wife of billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
  • Ms. Foundation for Women, an organization founded in 1972 by Gloria Steinem and several other women, advocates for abortion, among other things, through grants and other types of support. The foundation reported for its fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, gross receipts of about $26 million.


Melinda and Contraception

Gates’ philanthropy emphasizes contraception as a means to improve women’s health, wealth and independence.

She considers oral contraceptives an important part of her life.

“… I had the benefit of a small pill that allowed me to time and space my pregnancies,” she writes in The Moment of Lift.

Much of the book argues for expanding access to the contraceptive pill, something she has encouraged governments to do and has supported through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She writes that the contraceptive pill “is the key to breaking through all kinds of barriers that have held women back for so long.”

She notes several times in the book that the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is immoral, but she never states the Church’s reasoning — that separating sexual intercourse from procreation through artificial means degrades it, drives a wedge between man and woman by preventing a mutual giving of self, and helps lead to divorce.

Instead, she says, her conscience tells her to value another Church teaching — love of neighbor — above the Church’s teaching on contraception. She says in the book she has “felt strong support in this from priests, nuns, and laypeople who’ve told me that I am on solid moral ground. …”

Gates, 59, the second of four children, was raised a Catholic and went to Catholic schools in Dallas, where she attended Mass five days a week, according to The Moment of Lift. Being called a non-Catholic hurts, she says in the book. While she expected the criticism she has gotten from Catholics over her support for contraception, she writes, “I also expected the online comments that referred to me as ‘former Catholic Melinda Gates’ or ‘so-called Catholic Melinda Gates’ — but it stung anyway.”

Gates doesn’t make a case for or against abortion in the book, but at one point she chides opponents of contraception for conflating it with abortion.

Gates doesn’t like talking about abortion.

During a speech on contraception in March 2011, for instance, she sidestepped abortion. During a “Ted Talk” in April 2012 she did something similar.

In 2014, Gates wrote in a blog post on the Gates Foundation website (which is no longer available) that “like everyone, I struggle with the issue,” that she didn’t want her support for contraception to become entangled with what she called “the emotional and personal debate about abortion,” and that, therefore, she said, “I’ve decided not to engage on it publicly — and the Gates Foundation has decided not to fund abortion.”

That statement drew the ire both of critics who support abortion and of abortion opponents who say the Gates Foundation effectively has long supported abortion through financial donations to, among others, International Planned Parenthood Federation.

So if abortion wasn’t a public point of emphasis five years ago, what changed?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision two years ago that overturned Roe v. Wade and returned abortion policy to legislatures and referendums led Gates to announce support for abortion, she wrote in a column published May 28 in The New York Times that does not mention the word “abortion.”

“While I have long focused on improving contraceptive access overseas, in the post-Dobbs era, I now feel compelled to support reproductive rights here at home,” Gates wrote in the column. “For too long, a lack of money has forced organizations fighting for women’s rights into a defensive posture while the enemies of progress play offense. I want to help even the match.”



An Uneven Battle

Like Gates, pro-life advocates see a disparity in money, but they say it tilts toward the pro-abortion side.

“On a daily basis, the Pro-Life Generation relives the story of David and Goliath, as we are outspent everywhere by financial giants. For example, consider that the almost $700M that our federal government wastes on Planned Parenthood allows them to market themselves to more women and to push a culture of death by intentional abortion,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action, told the Register by email through a spokesman.

“But the beauty of a righteous cause is knowing that it’s not up to us alone, and that is our true strength, though all donations are welcome,” she said.

Students for Life of America, Inc. reported for its fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2022, gross receipts of about $13.8 million, according to its Internal Revenue Service Form 990. For that same year, its political action committee, Students for Life Action, Inc., reported revenues of about $4.5 million.

Since the June 2022 Dobbs decision, pro-lifers have lost statewide referendums on abortion in all seven states where they have taken place. In 2024, abortion referendums are on the ballot in four states and may make the ballot in another nine states. 

In every race, pro-lifers say they’ve been vastly outspent by abortion supporters.

Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, which reported for its fiscal year ending April 30, 2023, gross receipts of about $3.9 million, told the Register that pro-lifers have never been able to compete with pro-abortion organizations when it comes to money.

“There has always been a funding disparity between those seeking to protect innocent human life and those wanting to promote the killing of preborn children,” Tobias said. “The additional funds brought to the table by French Gates will be added to an already overflowing pool. Will it make our task more difficult? Sure, but pro-lifers are determined optimists. We’ll continue to speak up for those who have no voice.”

Melanie Israel, a visiting fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at The Heritage Foundation, said while pro-lifers are outgunned by Gates and other abortion advocates when it comes to money, they can still have an effect.

“Abortion hurts women and girls — it doesn’t empower them. This announcement is a grim reminder that the pro-life movement is up against a powerful cabal of well-funded abortion activists,” Israel told the Register by email through a spokesman. “An effective, meaningful way to counter the culture of death is to find your local pregnancy-resource center and offer a helping hand, financial support, or both.”

“Pregnancy care centers are on the front lines, making abortion unnecessary and unthinkable. They deserve our support,” Israel said. “Maybe one day Melinda Gates will think so, too.”