“Mexico City Policy” Goes Back On the Books

The "Mexico City Policy" on contraception and abortion is back on the books.

Photo: Shutterstock

The nonprofit field is, often by necessity, a global one, wherein organizations in one country help people in others. Helping poor or oppressed people elsewhere is often a rallying cry, but it can also be a weak spot, as shown by Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, “which requires that organizations receiving U.S. federal aid ‘neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations’.”

The policy has been around since 1984, when then-president Ronald Reagan introduced it, and has been rescinded or reinstated by each president since, depending on their political affiliation.

What it means is that no nonprofit that receives U.S. federal aid can even talk about abortion in another country without losing that funding stream. While in the U.S., a group like Planned Parenthood can differentiate their funding so that no federal grants go to abortion, that’s not possible for nonprofits outside of the U.S. or American groups operating elsewhere.

The ban has also been extended to organizations that get global health money, not just family planning organizations. According to a post on Politico, Janet Kates, vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, says that the intent is to extend the ban to organizations potentially including maternal health programs, anti-Zika efforts, and the PEPFAR program to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

There is plenty of evidence to show that instating this gag rule leads to higher instances of dangerous abortions, of unwanted pregnancies, and a general decline of women’s and children’s health globally.

Marie Stopes International, an organization whose mission is to provide access to contraception and safe abortions, says of the ban, “The Mexico City Policy, re-enacted today on ‘Day One’ of President Trump’s term of office, demands that all non-US international organizations in receipt of US Government funding neither perform nor ‘actively promote’ abortion. This effectively means NGOs forfeit all US aid if they so much as tell a woman abortion is a legal option in her country, refer her to another provider, or advocate for abortion rights with their own alternative resources.

Nobody should be surprised that the Mexico City Policy is back in place, but it is something that we should be concerned about. Writer Erin Rubin said that “the global gag rule’s reinstatement is seen by many as a warning sign that further cuts to health services are coming, even when the evidence shows that services are sorely needed.”

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