What you heard:
President Trump signed an executive order reinstating the Mexico City Policy.
What it is:
Read all about executive orders here.
The Mexico City Policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule, which is a far more horrifying and also far more accurate term, so I’ll be using it moving forward) was introduced in 1984 at the UN International Conference on Population, which took place in – you guessed it – Mexico City. It states that no foreign non-governmental organization (NGO: a non-profit that’s not associated with a country or international government) can receive US aid if the services it provides include “performing or promoting” abortion. Since 1984, the team of all old-white-male Republican presidents have embraced the Global Gag Rule, while Presidents Clinton and Obama rescinded it upon taking office.
What it means:
It’s important to note here that it is already illegal to use US federal funds to perform abortions (thanks to the 1973 Helms Amendment), so what the Global Gag Rule actually does is take funding away from other types of health care like mammograms, sexual health check ups, birth control, and other women and family health services (including care for pregnant women and their unborn children).
Once more for the ladies in the back: it is already illegal to use US funds for abortion services, so the real result of this policy is elimination of funding for family and women’s health services.
Do I want to repeat that for a third time? Absolutely, but I’ll refrain. You’re welcome.
The Global Gag Rule also dictates what NGOs do with their own money that they’ve raised from donors or other foreign governments, and results in a loss of their autonomy.
What could happen:
Imagine that you could no longer go to your doctor to get a Pap every once in awhile, just to check that everything is in tip top shape. Or if you couldn’t go to your doctor to get your birth control prescription refilled, or an IUD inserted. Or if you couldn’t go to your doctor after you became pregnant to make sure that you and your baby are healthy. Imagine that your doctor doesn’t even perform abortions, but she’s lost the funding to provide these other services to you simply because she refers patients to abortion providers when they ask.
Now imagine you’re a woman in a developing world – maybe even one where it’s widely thought that AIDS is curable through sex with virgins, or one where rape is not a totally punishable offense – and your doctor (who’s funded through an NGO because your country was colonized, brutalized, then left for dead by white Europeans and can’t afford to provide you basic services) has to close her doors.
So why don’t these NGOs just change their policies so they can continue providing other health services? The simple fact is that access to abortion is a vital component of comprehensive women’s health care, and many NGOs are unwilling to provide incomplete care in order to receive US dollars; they just operate on smaller budgets and provide complete care to smaller populations. Research has also shown that when you limit safe access to abortions, you don’t limit abortions – you just make them dangerous, and women die from them at higher rates. NGOs know this, and they continue to provide abortions because their facilities are cleaner, safer, and they can provide adequate follow-up care.
Here are a few (predicted) ways in which the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule will affect Marie Stopes International, just one of the many family planning NGOs:
- 6.5 million more unintended pregnancies
- 2.2 million more abortions
- 2.1 million more unsafe abortions
- 21,700 more maternal deaths
- 1.5 million more women will lose access to contraceptives
Those are the consequences of denying funding to just one NGO. One. And remember, this is all happening to women in the developing world, because a group of old white men in the US got together and decided that is was their right to enforce their religious beliefs, deeply rooted against both science and human rights, on all the peoples they could.