President Trump restores the Mexico City Policy- what does this mean?
Posted by Alithea Williams on 24 January 2017
President Trump signs the order reinstating the Mexico City Policy.
In the last few days, the media has been full of the news that America's new president, Donald Trump, has signed an executive orderreinstating the Mexico City Policy. Many sources have been bewailing the return of the "global gag", while pro-lifers have delighted in the "defunding of International Planned Parenthood". The general impression seems to be that this move has ended US funding of abortion overseas. So what is the Mexico City policy, and what's actually going on?
Defunding overseas abortion?
First of all, it's not quite accurate to say that the Mexico City Policy stops US aid money being spent on abortions overseas. Direct U.S. funding for abortion is already restricted under several provisions that were enacted into US law before the Mexico City Policy - for instance, the 1973 Helms Amendment prohibited the use of US aid to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortion. There are also laws in place prohibiting the use of funds for biomedical research related to abortion (Biden Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act in 1981) and for lobbying for or against abortion (Siljander Amendment, 1981). So, even under Obama, US aid was not being directly used to fund abortion.
Of course, given the nature of money, the fact that money was being given to organisations such as International Planned Parenthood (IPPF) for other activities, this doesn't mean very much.Killing Africa, a documentary produced by Culture of Life Africa , claims that Marie Stopes International (MSI) was in fact using US aid to fund illegal abortions in Uganda.
What the Mexico City Policy did was to take the prohibition on funding abortion a step further, by denying US aid to any organisation that promotes, advocates for or gives information on abortion.
The policy was first introduced in 1984 by the Reagan administration, at the 2nd International Conference on Population, which was held in Mexico City, Mexico, on August 6-14, 1984 (hence its name). It has been rescinded and reinstated by subsequent administrations along party lines (so has been in effect for approximately 17 of the past 32 years).
The policy requires foreign NGOs to certify that they will not "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning" with non-US funds as a condition for receiving US global family planning assistance. This is the key - any organisation that performs or promotes abortion as a method of family planning will not receive US funds- even if they are using other sources of income to do so.
The policy has also been called the "global gag rule" by its opponents, because among other activities, it prohibits foreign NGOs from using non-US funds to provide information about abortion as a method of family planning or to lobby a foreign government to legalise abortion.
As we've seen, the Mexico City Policy has been in place before - every Republican government has reinstated it, while every Democrat one has rescinded it.
However, it appears that President Trump has actually strengthened the conditions of the policy. Whenever the policy has been in place before, organisations have had to certify that they are not performing or promoting abortion to qualify for US government global family planning assistance. Now, the Memorandum from the president directs the Secretary of State "to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies." This would exclude organisations who promote abortion from a whole new raft of funding streams, including AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Department of Health and Human Services and its operating divisions, the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC); and the Department of Defence (DOD).
The memo also includes, for the first time, instructions to enforce the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which prohibited the use of U.S. aid to fund any organisation or program that supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation. (Such directions had been provided separately in the past.)
So, good news?
Yes! While this new order is not directly about banning US aid being used for abortion overseas, it closes the loophole that allowed abortion promoters like IPPF and MSI to receive funding by claiming they were using it for other activities. It’s also good news that these organisations are being denied access to many other funding streams, not just family planning assistance.
It's not perfect - President Bush's reinstating of the amendment contained an exception for rape and incest, and it doesn't appear that Trump's order removes this.
However, whatever one thinks of President Trump, it's certainly promising that one of his first actions in office was to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, and even to strengthen its provision. Hearing a White House spokesman refer to a "pro-life president" is also not something most of us expected to hear in our lifetimes.
Much of the information for this blog was sourced from this factsheet from the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation.