Politics & Government

What is the Mexico City abortion rule?

Along with two other executive actions, President Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City abortion rules on Monday, which was rescinded by former President Barack Obama exactly eight years ago.

Though Trump has had controversial clashes with Mexico over his border wall policy, this executive action actually has nothing to do with Mexico, despite its name. It’s also not unique to Trump — it’s a policy that gets rescinded or reinstated every time the presidency switches from Democrat to Republican, or vice versa.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called Trump’s action the end of “the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions overseas.”

Here are a few facts about the Mexico City Policy:

  • It requires foreign non-governmental organizations to not provide or promote abortion services if they receive funds from the U.S. government. Specifically, the funds would come from the United States Agency for International Development, and abortion cannot be presented as a “method of family planning.” Promoting abortion services includes work such as counseling for women that includes language on abortions.
  • The policy was named for Mexico City because it was announced at the United Nations International Conference on Population in that location.
  • It was signed into law by former President Ronald Reagan and went into effect in 1985.
  • The policy stayed in effect until 1993, when it was rescinded by former President Bill Clinton. Since then, it has been reinstated by every Republican president and rescinded by every Democratic president within their first few days in office. Obama rescinded it exactly eight years ago, on Jan. 23, 2009.
  • Obama’s statement when he repealed the policy read, in part, “It is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law, and for the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries. For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development.”
  • The presidents previous to Obama who took actions on the policy signed them on Jan. 22 of their respective years, which is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Some noted in 2009 that Obama likely waited a day on purpose due to the anniversary, though Obama never confirmed or denied that.
  • The order does provide exceptions in cases of rape, incest or life-threatening conditions.
  • Critics of the policy refer to it as the “Global Gag Rule,” and the U.S. has been unsuccessfully sued over the policy by those who say it limits freedom of speech.
  • The policy creates legal problems for organizations in certain countries, such as South Africa, where the groups are legally required to inform a woman seeking an abortion of her rights and refer her to a facility that would perform an abortion.
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