Rescind the Mexico City Policy

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In 1984, President Reagan instituted what has been referred to as the “Mexico City” Policy. This policy prohibits any federal funds going to NGOs that provide family planning advice related to abortion. Its intent was to ensure that no U.S. taxpayer money was spent on any abortion related services. Depending on which political party is in power, the policy is periodically reinstated and then rescinded again. Recently, President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy. Reinstatement of this policy is often applauded by pro-life groups and religious institutions such as the Catholic Church. Other groups, such as Planned Parenthood and Doctors Without Borders, have come out strongly against reinstating the policy.

Although this policy is intended to reduce the number of abortions by not allowing funding to go toward organizations that advise women on abortion and other family planning services, evidence indicates that the policy results in an increase in the number of abortions over time. For instance, a study cited in The Economist indicated that Sub-Saharan countries with high exposure to this policy saw dramatic increase in abortions over time after it was reinstated by the Bush Administration in 2001 (see figure below).  Since this policy explicitly deprives organizations of all funding because they provide abortions or abortion related advice, it can also reduce the amount of funding available for contraceptives, HIV testing, and prenatal care.

Credit: The Economist

In summary, The Mexico City policy is counterproductive to reducing abortion and improving women’s health services as evidence has indicated the policy results in an increase the number of abortions when federal funding for NGO’s is reduced. Therefore, it would be better for women’s health and many pro-life groups if the policy is rescinded as it deprives funding for NGOs that provide other important services like contraception and STI testing.

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2 Responses to “Rescind the Mexico City Policy”

  1. kweeks8 Says:

    There has certainly be a documented correlation between the Mexico City Policy and decreased access to family planning, as well as increased abortion rates, in countries receiving U.S. family planning assistance. This data on its own is alarming.

    However, it is important to note that the Mexico City Policy under President Trump goes beyond that of his predecessors. Not only did President Trump reinstate the policy, he also expanded the Mexico City Policy so that it applies to all global health assistance from any U.S. department or agency.

    In the past, the Mexico City Policy solely applied family planning aid from USAID and the U.S. State Department. Now it applies to any global health assistance from any U.S. government agency, including the NIH, the CDC, and affiliates of the United Nations. This means that foreign nongovernmental organizations that work on an array of health issues – including HIV/AIDS, Zika, maternal and child health, and malaria – will now be subjected to new abortion restrictions as a stipulation for receiving funding from the U.S. government.

    Since President Trump took the unprecedented step of expanding the Mexico City Policy, this policy now affects many more stakeholders than ever before. Thus, the ramifications of this policy will have an even greater scope, potentially magnifying some of its already concerning effects. Thus, I think that a necessary first step would be to rescind the expansion of the Mexico City Policy.

  2. ginnesjhu Says:

    Thank you for shedding light on this horrid policy. There’s a reason it’s colloquially called “the global gag rule.” As you eloquently stated, it forces non-governmental organizations in the international setting to choose between healthy abortion practices, information, options, etc and United States funding. This includes any projects that are funded and supported by USAID AND as Kweeks8 noted, now any US government agencies.

    The graph you showed, along with your summary of it, hits the point home. Removing funding from organizations that inform people about reproductive health options and counseling actually has the opposite of the intended effect! Why? Because the vast majority (if not all) of these organizations do not solely promote abortions “tell people to get abortions,” contrary to what some people believe. Organizations like Pathfinder International, help people understand their bodies and plan safe and wanted pregnancies, as well as promote contraception. Removing the impact of these programs, which is said in the post, therefore leads to more unwanted pregnancies and more (wildly unsafe) abortion incidences.

    This policy is not only a message about abortion, but is yet another broadcast to the world that the US is becoming a highly isolationist entity in a world where globalization is necessary in today’s world more than ever before.

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