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What Exactly is the Mexico City Policy?




Key Takeaways

  • President Biden repealed the Mexico City Policy, issuing a presidential memorandum on “Protecting Women’s Health at Home and Abroad.”
  • President Reagan initially instituted the Mexico City Policy in 1984.
  • The Mexico City Policy would apply to around $600 million from the United States funding of international family planning.

Last Thursday, January 28, President Biden repealed the Mexico City Policy, issuing a presidential memorandum on “Protecting Women’s Health at Home and Abroad.” Bans set by the Trump administration on United States funding of international pro-abortion groups were struck down. This act could potentially create far-reaching consequences. 

Maybe, you’re one of too many in the United States who have no idea what the Mexico City Policy is? What’s the significance of the policy’s repeal, and why should we be concerned? If you pay federal taxes, you have a right to know what your money is being spent on.

The Mexico City Policy

President Reagan initially instituted the Mexico City Policy in 1984. The policy was given its name from where the United Nations population conference announcing it took place, Mexico City. Democratic Presidents Clinton, Obama, and Biden have rescinded the policy. It’s been reinstated by Presidents George W. Bush and Trump during their terms in office. 

Under the Mexico City Policy, the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, can’t distribute funds for family planning to a foreign, non-governmental organization, NGOs, promoting or performing an abortion procedure

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., was a co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus for several years. He was in office when the Mexico City Policy was initially instituted. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency, he says the Helms Amendment stopped the direct funding of abortion procedures in other countries, but stricter pro-life funding protection was still needed. 

Read: Argentina Becomes Third South American Country to Legalize Abortion

“And the accounting trick that the pro-abortion groups were doing was that they would take all of the U.S. funding and tell us our money wasn’t being used to pay for abortion,” Smith says. “And then they would just fund abortion-on-demand, however many they wanted to do, and lobby for it.”

He said, “The Mexico City Policy was all about saying if we care enough about the precious lives of unborn children who are going to be dismembered or chemically poisoned by an organization, then we’re not going to let bookkeeping tricks and accounting methods prevent us from as much protection as we can possibly provide.”

Was the Policy Effective?

Several international pro-abortion groups and organizations, such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International, have been aggressive with promoting abortion in developing countries. This was happening while they were partnering with the U.S. and receiving funding through tax dollars. 

Smith says certain NGOs’ advocating for abortion “is unrelenting. A lot of countries are pro-life, particularly in Africa and Latin America, and, sadly, we’re being forced to subsidize the lobbying and the performance of abortion by these groups.”

According to Smith, the United Nations, African Union, and other multilateral organizations are working with these groups, promoting abortions in the developing world. For example, he notes that one NGO receiving assistance from the United States wrote legislation that authorized legal abortion in Kenya.

Originally, the Mexico City Policy would apply to around $600 million from the United States funding of international family planning. Critics will allege recipients are silenced from advocating for legal abortion or making abortion referrals. It was widely known as the “global gag rule.

In 2017, the policy was not only reinstated by the Trump administration; it extended over $8 billion in global health assistance. As the pro-life requirements led pro-abortion groups to withdraw from partnership with the United States, their funding felt significant repercussions. In 2017, it was estimated by the International Planned Parenthood Federation they would lose around $100 million in annual funds. It was also estimated that Marie Stopes would lose approximately $80 million a year. 

What Consequences Were Created by the Mexico City Policy?

Policy critics allege the pro-life restrictions set by the Trump administration were so broad, significant global health initiatives such as AIDS relief would be hurt. The argument was made that if NGOs were made to give up U.S. foreign aid due to the restrictions on abortion, and the United States couldn’t find replacing suitable partners, significant gaps would be made concerning critical health care. 

Last August, it was found by a federal report that the “vast majority” of partners with the United States in global health assistance had accepted the Trump administration’s new pro-life policies. The ones who were unwilling to accept, health care gaps were filled by health providers, donors, and even foreign governments.

As chair of the House global health subcommittee, Smith was the author of a five-year extension of Trump’s “President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.” The conclusion was affirmed by Smith that there weren’t any significant health care gaps as a result of the policy. 

“So there wasn’t a single dollar cut for any health initiative. Not one. It was redirected, but in most cases, it was accepted,” he said. “The issue is, abortion is not health care. It is a very violent deed, and we don’t want complicity in global abortion,” Smith says. 

What Exactly did President Biden Do?

Last Thursday, President Biden issued a sweeping order, repealing the Mexico City Policy. Funding was restored to UNFPA. Biden instructed federal agencies to start engaging global health partners. He wants them to know the previous restrictions on abortion procedures, lobbying, and advocacy aren’t in place any longer. 

Smith says, “Now more money will be flowing to the NGOs that so aggressively promote the destruction of innocent human life.”

On top of this, last Thursday, Xavier Becerra, the nominated but not yet confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services, was instructed by Biden to review the previous administration’s “Protect Life Rule.”

This rule was applied towards the Title X program, established in 1970, subsidizing contraception and family planning. Under the Trump administration, recipients of the Title X grant weren’t allowed to be co-located with abortion clinics or make referrals for abortion procedures. Title X was created by a law saying funding couldn’t go to “programs where abortion is a family planning method.”

According to President Biden, the newly established prohibition on referrals for an abortion procedure “puts women’s health at risk by making it harder for women to receive complete medical information.”

The Biden administration has also withdrawn from the Geneva Declaration. This statement was signed by 32 countries last October, including the United States. The Declaration states abortion isn’t an international human right. 

Why this matters

No, I didn’t vote for President Biden. I consider myself more of a devout Catholic than I do a Republican. I simply won’t vote for anyone at the local, state, or federal level who supports abortion. President Biden made sure his voters knew he is a practicing Catholic. His actions last Thursday are quite troubling.

For conservatives, I think the worst fear is becoming a reality. Biden is more influenced by the Democratic party than he is the faith he professes. This can be troubling. Joe Biden is the President of the United States. He has the opportunity to allow his beliefs to influence many in the political world. Instead, it seems his faith is what’s being affected. In my opinion, this says a lot about the character of a man or lack of in this instance. 


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