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Clarifying the Mexico City Policy

January 23, 2009, 4:05 pm | Posted by Kristin Ford

Today, the media’s been abuzz with the not-so-surprising news that President Obama is set to overturn the Mexico City Policy, which prevents U.S. funding from going to international NGOs that endorse or provide abortions. Some of the reporting has been a bit murky.

Exhibit A:

Reuters story ran under the headline “Obama to lift funding ban for abortion groups abroad.” The article goes on to say, “President Barack Obama on Friday will lift restrictions on U.S. government funding for groups that provide abortion services or counseling abroad, reversing a policy of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush.”

Exhibit B:

Politico: “It’s known as the Mexico City Policy, or global gag rule, which bans federally funded non-government organizations from performing abortions in foreign countries.”

Exhibit C:

Associated Press: The policy bans U.S. taxpayer money, usually in the form of U.S. Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion. It is also known as the “global gag rule,” because it prohibits taxpayer funding for groups that even talk about abortion if there is an unplanned pregnancy.

Exhibit D:

BBC: President Barack Obama is set to lift a ban on US funding for groups that provide abortion services abroad, officials say.

What’s implicitly being said– that the overturning of the “global gag rule” will allow U.S. dollars to pay for abortions– is simply not the case. Regardless of the status of the Mexico City Policy, we have a law on our books (the Helms amendment) that prevents federal money from going to abortion procedures. Revoking the Mexico City Policy will allow for the funding of organizations that provide family planning services, abortion referrals and counselings, and yes, abortions. BUT, that money cannot directly go towards abortions.

In addition to the media’s incomplete context, some in the pro-life community aren’t getting it right either. For instance, a FOX story quotes Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, saying, “President Obama not long ago told the American people that he would support policies to reduce abortions, but today he is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control.”

In the same vein, a Focus on the Family representative told the BBC: “…you cannot reduce abortions by channelling more money to the abortion industry.”

To the contrary– robust family planning and access to contraception will drive down demand for abortions. One of the key planks of the Real Abortion Solutions initiative is the prevention of unintended pregnancies. The global gag rule has prevented women from getting the health care they need, including contraception and family planning services.

As David Gibson at Beliefnet wrote today, “[the Mexico City Policy] has cut off a lifeline to untold numbers of health clinics that are the sole outlet for millions of poor people–and has resulted in terrible sufferings for women and children, increased numbers of pregnancies, and a greater number of abortions.”

Women around the globe deserve the chance at a healthy, safe life. Without NGO-operated and funded clinics– which often rely on American funding– many won’t get that care. Let’s make sure we have all the facts when we talk about policy that affects whether they receive it.

One Response to “Clarifying the Mexico City Policy”

  1. Katie says:

    Thanks Kristin. The reporting definitely got better on this on Day 2, although headlines continued to be misleading. Like this one: http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-BarackObamaUK/idUSTRE50M3PQ20090123