It hasn’t been two days since millions of women swarmed the streets of the globe’s cities to champion their rights, and US president Donald Trump has already rolled back funding for organizations that provide abortion counseling and services outside the US, a move that will hurt the ability of women to get basic reproductive services.
The president this morning reinstated the Mexico City Policy, also known as Global Gag rule, which withholds US foreign aid money to non-governmental organizations that provide abortions and abortion counseling. Trump’s move is in line with what every other Republican president has done since the policy was developed in 1984 under Ronald Reagan. Democratic administrations have also withheld money for abortions themselves in line with the 1973 Helms amendment, but provided foreign aid for other reproductive services including post-abortion care.
The Helms amendment forbids the use of funds from the US Agency for International Development to finance abortion services abroad. Named after Jesse Helms, the late pro-life senator from North Carolina, the amendment states that “No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”
But limiting funds to NGOs that provide abortions also limits their ability to offer contraception counseling and other health services. Brian Dixon, a spokesperson for the Population Connection Action Fund, commented in a written statement that the last time this policy was reinstated under president George W. Bush, “clinics closed. Contraceptive supplies withered. Abortion rates skyrocketed—nearly all unsafe. Women and families suffered.” The move on NGO funding is in line with Republican threats to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides many other women’s health services aside from abortion and abortion counseling.
US senator Jeanne Shaheen said on Twitter she would work to repeal the Mexico City policy.
According to the USAID website, $2.9 billion was earmarked for foreign health issues with the goals of “ending preventable child and maternal deaths, creating an AIDS-free generation, and protecting communities from infectious diseases” for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2017.
Asked about the policy during a press conference on Jan. 23, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that is in line with Trump’s is pro-life position, and “he must stand up for all Americans even the unborn.”
Quartz has reached out to the White House for further comment on the decision and will update the article accordingly.