Mexico City Policy Primer
January 28, 2021 by Amy Welborn
Basically, every president, very early on, stakes out a position on this. It was instituted during Reagan’s administration, in 1984.
In response, the Senate voted (in the typically complicated Senatorial way) on an amendment to an amendment to a bill to table an expression of support for the policy, and Senator Joe Biden voted in support of Reagan’s Mexico City Policy.
Clinton, after running as, if not quite pro-life, but in a way that made pro-lifers think he might not be their enemy, was on record, in a 1986 letter to Arkansas Right to Life, as opposing government funding for abortion….reversed the Mexico City Policy on his first day in office, as the crowds were gathering for the March for Life. I vividly remember that because the Catholic circles I ran in at the time were all very up on Clinton and how he was really big-tent-pro-life-and-not-just-anti-abortion-because-justice. And then, his first day, not only this, but more:
With a stroke of a pen, President Clinton marked the 20th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade Friday by dismantling a series of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Administration abortion restrictions, only hours after tens of thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators rallied across the street from the White House.
* Ended a five-year ban on fetal tissue research, which scientists believe holds the possibility of benefiting patients with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, Huntington’s disease, spinal cord injuries and other conditions.
* Overturned the so-called gag rule that restricted abortion counseling at 4,000 federally funded family planning clinics nationwide.
* Revoked prohibitions on the importation of RU486–known as the French “abortion pill”–for personal use, if the Food and Drug Administration determines that there is no justification for the prohibitions.
* Allowed abortions at U.S. military hospitals overseas, if they are paid for privately.
* Reversed a 1984 order which prevented the United States from providing foreign aid to overseas organizations that perform or promote abortion.
Abortion rights advocates said Clinton’s actions were nothing short of historic.
It was eye-opening, to say the least.
And then, of course, Bush reinstated the Mexico City Policy on his first day, and then Obama reversed it on his.
The executive order was signed January 23, one day after the anniversary of the far-reaching Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion throughout the U.S.
Originally instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the Mexico City Policy states that foreign non-governmental organizations may not receive federal funding if they perform or promote abortions as a method of family planning.
The argument has been made by abortion proponents that the Mexico City Policy is nothing more than “powerful” U.S. politicians forcing their policies on poor nations. But, frankly, the opposite is true. First, the policy forces nothing: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may choose to apply for U.S. tax funds, and to be eligible, they must refrain from abortion activity. On the other hand, NGOs may choose to do abortions or to lobby foreign nations to change their laws which restrict abortion, and if they choose that path they render themselves ineligible for U.S. money. As we saw last time the policy was in place, only two out of hundreds of organizations elected to forfeit the U.S. money for which they were otherwise eligible. (1) But it was and will be entirely their choice.
Far from forcing a policy on poor nations, the Mexico City Policy ensures that NGOs will not themselves force their abortion ideology on countries without permissive abortion laws in the name of the United States as U.S. grantees.
And as we have learned from our experience in international conferences on population, it is not the Mexico City Policy but the United States’ promotion of permissive abortion attitudes through funding of such programs that is likely to cause resentment.(2) This is especially true when it is perceived as a means by which the West is attempting to impose population control policies on developing nations as conditions for development assistance.
The Mexico City Policy is needed because the agenda of many organizations receiving U.S. population aid has been to promote abortion as an integral part of family planning – even in developing nations where abortion is against the law.(3) So, far from being perceived as an imposition on developing nations, the Mexico City Policy against funding abortion programs has been greeted by those nations as a welcome reform. The vast majority of these countries have legal policies against abortion, and virtually all forbid the use of abortion as merely another method of birth control.(4)
Two other pieces on the policy from the PRI. Here, on the Trump administration’s extension of it, and then here, on the impact of the policy.
And now, like clockwork, the pendulum swings back. Almost 40 years ago, Joe Biden expressed support of the Mexico City Policy (consistent with his views for many years opposing government funding of abortion – he didn’t flip on Hyde until 2019), and today, as promised and expected, he signed an executive order rescinding the Mexico City Policy.
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