On Monday the Trump administration announced that it will broaden the scope of the pro-life Mexico City Policy that bans U.S. aid from supporting NGO’s that perform or endorse abortion.
In a statement President Trump said, “I direct the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to the extent allowable by law, to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.”
The statement concluded, “I further direct the Secretary of State to take all necessary actions… to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
Commenting on the new policy, the White House said, “The pro-life policy will apply to global health assistance funding for international health programs, such as those for HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, global health security, and family planning and reproductive health.”
Dubbed the “Protecting Life in Global Assistance Initiative,” the expanded Mexico City policy will now cover all foreign health assistance provided by government agencies including the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense.
Before the policy change, the Mexico City policy only applied to family planning funds distributed in overseas aid programs by the Statement and USAID, effecting $600 million in funds. Under the expanded policy around 8.8 billion in federal aid money will be covered.
In January, President Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, an executive order first signed by President Ronald Reagan that prohibits groups that provide or promote overseas abortions from receiving American aid money. Since Reagan, every Republican president as kept what critics describe as a “gag rule” in place whereas Democratic presidents have rescinded it.
According to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention the Mexico City policy is an effective deterrent for organizations that promote abortion:
When the policy is not in place (as under President’s Clinton and Obama), NGOs are allowed to promote abortion as a method of “family planning.” Since federal funds are “fungible,” this allows NGOS that promote and perform abortions to use taxpayer money to pay for salaries and other marketing costs to promote abortion, freeing their own funds to be used to perform abortions. As long as the abortions are not directly being paid for by federal funds, then the abortion-promoting agency is not in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
When the policy is in place, though, the abortion providers are not only hindered in their promotion efforts, they are less likely to be able to operate in foreign countries. For example, when President Reagan first implemented the policy International Planned Parenthood Federation no longer qualified and immediately lost more than 20 percent of its total funding.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council praised the President Trump’s decision:
“The Mexico City Policy’s implementation should reassure everyone who’s questioned the merits of the president’s recent executive order on religious liberty. If conservatives doubt this president’s sincerity on the issue, they shouldn’t. At the very least, he deserves the chance to implement the order before people judge how effective it is. All he’s done these first 120 days is prove the critics wrong. I’m confident his religious freedom protections will be no different.”