President Trump has reinstated and expanded the Mexico City policy prohibiting foreign nongovernmental organizations from offering counseling or referrals for abortion services if they receive funding from the U.S. government.
Mr. Trump’s executive order on Jan. 23 was not unexpected given his conservative platform on reproductive health care; however, he has taken the policy – also known as the global gag rule – further than his predecessors.
Originally instituted under President Reagan, the Mexico City Policy required overseas organizations to certify that they would not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” using non–U.S. funds in order to receive family planning aid from the U.S. government. The policy has been rescinded and enforced periodically since 1984, based on the ideologic slant of successive U.S. administrations.
The Trump iteration of the Mexico City Policy “extends the requirements of the reinstated memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments and agencies,” according to the White House.
Planned Parenthood Global condemned the expanded policy, which now affects international organizations working on any U.S.–funded global health initiative, including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, maternal and child health, and Zika virus programs. These groups will be stripped of all U.S. aid if they also provide abortion counseling, referrals, or services for abortion, even with their own funds.
“This is an unprecedented move, and the most extreme executive action we’ve seen of its kind,” Latanya Mapp Frett, executive director, said in a statement. “The global gag rule, as it existed under previous anti–women’s health presidents, was deeply harmful. But this action will be catastrophic for all communities, especially those relying on U.S. funding to address HIV/AIDS and maternal health care, and the fight against Zika.”
The expansion of the Mexico City Policy “certainly does presage negative things for abortion and contraception” under the new administration, said Sarah W. Prager, MD, of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Another example is the [Jan. 24] passage in the House of Representatives of H.R. 7, which would make permanent the Hyde Amendment and deny our most disadvantaged women access to abortion.”
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists took a different stance. “The Mexico City Policy was instituted to prevent the U.S. from forcing taxpayers to fund abortion overseas,” said Donna J. Harrison, MD, executive director. “This policy has been intermittently in place since 1984 and represents no departure from previous policies implemented by pro-life presidents.”
AAPLOG supports reinstating this policy because elective abortion “is not a part of essential women’s health care, and, in fact, is an elective procedure,” Dr. Harrison said.