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Rescind the Mexico City Policy

March 12, 2017

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 Depending on which political party is in power, the policy is periodically reinstated and then rescinded again.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 Therefore, it would be better for women’s health and many pro-life groups if the policy is rescinded as it deprives funding for NGOs that provide other important services like contraception and STI testing.