President Biden on Thursday signed a memorandum rescinding the pro-life Mexico City Policy, thereby allowing U.S. money to be used by international organizations to promote abortion.
The Mexico City Policy – which was implemented by President Reagan in 1984 and supported by every Republican administration since – bans U.S. funds from going to foreign organizations (NGOs) that promote or counsel for abortion. It also prohibits such organizations from lobbying for more liberal abortion policies in other countries.
President Trump renewed the policy in 2017.
A White House statement said Biden’s memorandum reversing the policy reflects the administration’s goal “to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as globally.”
The Biden memorandum also directed the Department of Health and Human Services to “take immediate action to consider whether to rescind regulations under its Title X family planning program,” according to the White House.
Under Trump, HHS prohibited Title X money from going to clinics that “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” Planned Parenthood, which received an estimated $60 million annually from Title X, chose to drop out of the program.
HHS is expected to roll back the Trump rule. Planned Parenthood presumably would then receive Title X funding again.
Biden did not elaborate on the memorandum during an Oval Office signing ceremony, only saying it “protects women’s health at home and abroad.” He further said he wants to rescind Trump-era policies that make it “harder for women to have access to affordable health care as it relates to reproductive rights.”
WATCH LIVE: Pres. Biden signs executive actions aimed at expanding enrollment for the Affordable Care Act amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and addressing reproductive health. https://t.co/CMNuJCyob5— ABC News (@ABC) January 28, 2021
The Mexico City Policy was implemented by the Reagan administration at a United Nations conference in 1984 in Mexico City. Critics dubbed it the “Global Gag Rule.” President Clinton rescinded the policy in 1992 before President George W. Bush restored it. It then was rescinded again by President Obama before being restored again by President Trump in 2017. Trump also expanded the policy.
Despite Biden’s memorandum, the direct funding of abortion remains prohibited under the Helms Amendment of 1973. Pro-lifers, though, say that no money should go toward foreign organizations that promote or perform abortions, because an organization’s budget is fungible.
The pro-life Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention says without the Mexico City Policy, foreign organizations that “promote and perform abortions” can use U.S. funds “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” Helms Amendment, an ERLC analysis of the Mexico City Policy says.
“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,” the ERLC analysis says. “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.”
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, criticized Biden for overturning the Mexico City Policy.
“It is bad enough that these abortion factories perform their deadly work here on our shores,” Jeffress wrote in a column. “But President Biden has chosen to make our government the primary investor in an international franchise that exports death, as well. All in the righteous-sounding name of ‘global aid.’ May God have mercy on our country.”
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Joe Raedle/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.