In his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to stop funding for organisations providing abortions and he is making good of his misguided promise. On 26 March, the Trump administration announced it will be expanding restrictions on foreign aid to organisations that provide abortion-related services.
The so-called Mexico City Policy was first introduced by the Reagan administration, named after the city where it was first announced in 1984. It requires foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) receiving US funding to certify they do not provide abortions or abortion advice. The newest version of the policy will cut funding to foreign NGOs directly involved in abortions or abortion rights advocacy, as well as those that fund or support other groups taking part in discussions on abortion.
Trump reinstated the policy in 2017, soon after his inauguration, and expanded it from just the US family planning funds to also include international aid. At the time, this affected around $9 billion in US foreign aid, which led to health clinic closures, less availability of contraception, and an increase in the rate of unsafe abortions.
Many overseas organisations rely on aid from the US, including the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The UN agency provides essential reproductive healthcare for women and youth in more than 150 countries. Strong enforcement of the policy could leave millions of women in the developing world without lifesaving reproductive healthcare services, such as contraception, maternal health, and HIV prevention. Moreover, expansion of the policy will affect NGOs providing services to prevent and treat infectious diseases, such as malaria and HIV.
In his announcement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “We will refuse to provide assistance to foreign NGOs that give financial support to other foreign groups in the global abortion industry.” He also said, “We will enforce a strict prohibition on backdoor funding schemes and end-runs around our policy. American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions.” Pompeo also claimed the “vast majority” NGOs receiving US aid have agreed to comply.
Anti-abortion advocates have welcomed the policy while abortion rights campaigners and Democrats have responded with harsh criticism of the policy, which they argue infringes on free speech. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen is demanding more background on the “unconscionable” decision to expand the policy, stating, “This administration’s obsession with attacking women’s reproductive health is egregious and dangerous,”
Backers of the Mexico City Policy insist that it will save lives. But, in fact, studies show the opposite. Researchers suggest the policy actually leads to more deaths by withholding contraception and forcing many women to seek unsafe back-alley abortions. Unsafe abortions can lead to lifelong disability or worse, death.