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Explainer: President Biden rescinds the Mexico City Policy

Today, President Biden announced that he will rescind the pro-life Mexico City Policy. The Mexico City Policy, established by President Reagan, prohibits U.S. foreign aid to groups that provide or promote abortion overseas. This policy has been a political football since President Clinton first rescinded it. One of President George W. Bush’s first administrative actions was reinstating this policy, and the policy has gone back and forth since then.  

Why is it named for “Mexico City”?

In 1984, President Reagan gave a speech announcing the policy at the United Nations International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) hosted in Mexico City. President Reagan instituted this important new pro-life policy at this UN conference because its purpose was to ensure that U.S. federal money would not suppor any foreign nongovernmental organization (NGO) that “performs or actively promotes abortion as a method of family planning.” 

How has the policy changed?

During the last four years, the Trump Administration broadened the Mexico City Policy, and it is currently known as the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy” (PLGHA). The purpose of PLGHA is to “prevent American taxpayers from subsidizing abortion through global health assistance provided for populations in need.” This policy ensured that, in order to recieve any foreign aid, international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) agreed to neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning overseas. PLGHA expanded the Mexico City Policy to include “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies” to the extent allowable by law. 

This policy only applied to voluntary family planning assistance funded by USAID and assistance for certain voluntary population planning furnished by the Department of State. 

According to a recent Marist poll, 77% of Americans are opposed to using tax dollars to support international abortion. This is up from 75% who answered similarly each of the past two years. There’s broad bipartisan support among Americans on not funding abortion abroad, and our policies should uphold life internationally.

Why does this policy matter?

Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prevented the federal government from allocating taxpayer dollars to fund abortions domestically. Eight years later, the Mexico City policy likewise began prohibiting the government from exporting pro-choice ideology and promoting and funding abortion abroad. President Biden’s decision to rescind the Mexico City policy is deeply disappointing, not only to Christians but to millions of Americans who recognize the value of human life in the womb.

Abortion remains a highly contentious issue in American society. Yet since Roe v. Wade, Americans have agreed that taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund abortions here at home. Unfortunately, that consensus is endangered by this decision from the Biden White House. It is outrageous that our government would use revenues from citizens with the strongest possible moral objections to abortion, to fund efforts to promote and advance abortion overseas. 

The ERLC strongly objects to this decision. As ERLC president Russell Moore said in 2017, “the usage of taxpayer money to fund abortions is and always has been morally repugnant.” Our government and its leaders not only have moral obligations to uphold justice, protect conscience rights, and defend life, but also a responsibility to pursue common sense fiscal policies. In rescinding the Mexico City Policy, President Biden and the administration forsaken those obligations. Even worse, they have done so in service to the abortion industry’s international business interests. One lobby’s interests are not worth violating the consciences of millions of Americans. 

Despite these unwelcome developments, the ERLC will continue to advocate for policies that save lives and promote human dignity here in the United States and around the world.

Learn more about our work in the pro-life space and subscribe to our pro-life email list here.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik serves as a Policy Director in the Washington, D.C. office of the ERLC. Previously, she worked in the U.S. House of Representatives on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. Chelsea is the author of Longing for Motherhood - Holding onto Hope … Read More

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester serves as Director of Content and Chair of Research in Christian Ethics. He holds an M.Div from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Th.M. in Public Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Josh is married to McCaffity, and they have two children. Read More by this Author