Jan. 23, 2009
I'm amazed with the number of people, on both sides of the abortion issue, in the media and definitely in Congress who have no understanding of what the Mexico City Policy is and does. I recently did an NPR interview where the obviously biased reporter asked me a number of "questions" that showed both a bias and a lack of knowledge in the policy. At a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing in October of 2007 a number of witnesses (including Joana Nerquaye-Tetteh, former executive director of Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana) who support the overturning of the Mexico City Policy had to actually admit ignorance of the policy during the hearing after some intense questioning from Republicans on the Committee.
First a little background. The Mexico City policy was first implemented via a memorandum by President Reagan in 1984 at a United Nations population conference in Mexico City, thus the name Mexico City policy. Prior to President Reagan's actions American policy on paper was to never promote abortion overseas, however in practice US tax dollars directly supported organizations which advocated and performed abortion. It remained in effect until 1993 when President Clinton rescinded the Mexico City policy on January 22, 1993 for the entirety of his tenure in office. On January 22, 2001, President Bush issued a memorandum restoring the Mexico City policy.
In as little words as possible, the Mexico City policy halts U.S. family planning funds from going to foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that perform abortions or "actively promote" abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.
What does this mean? Under the Mexico City Policy for an NGO to be "actively promoting" abortions means they provide advice and information regarding the availability of abortion or encourage women to consider abortion; lobby a foreign government to legalize or make more available abortion; or conduct a public information campaign regarding the benefits and/or availability of abortion.
That is what NGO's can't do. What they CAN still do under the Mexico City Policy is provide referrals for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother's life would be endangered if the unborn child were carried to term; and treat injuries or illnesses caused by legal or illegal abortions, i.e., post-abortion care. The argument that the Mexico City Policy is in actually a "global gag rule" is pure and utter nonsense - unless you actually believe that abortion, killing the child in the womb, is a form of family planning.
The effect of President Obama rescinding the Mexico City Policy is that now millions ($461 million in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008) of dollars are taken away from family planning groups that do not promote abortion, and delivered into the hands of organizations that are the most militant in promoting abortion as a population-control method - especially in countries that find abortion objectionable on moral grounds.