What you should know about the Mexico City Policy

January 19, 2017

Congressional Republicans are considering a resolution calling for statutory changes that permanently codify in law the Mexico City Policy, a policy that Donald Trump is expected to re-implement by executive order soon after taking office.

Here is what you should know about this pro-life policy.

What is the Mexico City Policy?

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 prohibits nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive federal funds from using those funds "to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning, or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions." In August 1984, President Ronald Reagan expanded this policy. At the United Nations International Conference on Population being held in Mexico City, the Reagan administration unveiled a policy statement that said:

U.S. support for family planning programs is based on respect for human life, enhancement of human dignity, and strengthening of the family. Attempts to use abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive measures in family planning must be shunned, whether exercised against families within a society or against nations within the family of man.

The statement directed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand the limitation under the Foreign Assistance Act to prohibit a wide range of activities, including providing advice, counseling, or information regarding abortion, or lobbying a foreign government to legalize or make abortion available.

Because it was released at the U.N. event, the directive has become known as the "Mexico City Policy."  (The policy is sometimes referred to by its critics as the “global gag rule” since it prohibits government funded NGOs from promoting abortion.)

When has the policy been in effect?

President Reagan first implemented the policy in August 1984, and it continued under President George H.W. Bush. When President Clinton took office in 1993, he rescinded the policy on January 22, the 21st anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

President George W. Bush reinstated the policy on January 22, 2001 and President Obama rescinded it again on January 23, 2009.

Why is the policy needed?

When the policy is not in place (as under President’s Clinton and Obama), NGOs are allowed to promote abortion as a method of “family planning.” Since federal funds are “fungible,” this allows NGOS that promote and perform abortions to use taxpayer money to pay for salaries and other marketing costs to promote abortion, freeing their own funds to be used to perform abortions. As long as the abortions are not directly being paid for by federal funds, then the abortion-promoting agency is not in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

When the policy is in place, though, the abortion providers are not only hindered in their promotion efforts, they are less likely to be able to operate in foreign countries. For example, when President Reagan first implemented the policy International Planned Parenthood Federation no longer qualified and immediately lost more than 20 percent of its total funding.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter has an MBA from Marymount University and is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus. He and his wife, Misty, have one daughter. Read More