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What the Mexico City rule means to women around the world

One of Donald Trump’s first acts as president was to restrict access to abortion.

On Monday, he reinstated the so-called “Mexico City Policy,” which forbids the US from funding any group that provides or promotes abortion overseas. The policy dates back to the Reagan era, was repealed by President Bill Clinton, reinstated by President George W. Bush and rescinded once more by President Barack Obama — before being reinstated on Monday.

The government has always forbidden the use of funds from the US Agency for International Development to pay for abortions overseas, dating back to 1973, the year of the Roe v. Wade ruling. The Helms Amendment, named after Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, passed in the Senate and the House in summer 1973 and stated that no USAID money could go to funding abortions as a method of family planning.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan took it a step further, with what is known as the Mexico City Policy — so named because of where it was announced by the then president. US aid cannot go to foreign clinics or groups that “actively promote abortion,” regardless of whether they do it with money from non-US sources.

Given the actions by his Republican predecessors, it comes as no surprise that President Trump reinstated the policy so soon. But his version does promise to be more restrictive. His memo calls for extending the rule to “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.”

How much does this revised policy change funding? The US spends roughly $607 million globally for reproductive health — a portion of the roughly $1.3 billion spent on gender issues. The gender budget goes mostly toward promoting women’s economic empowerment and job training, stopping violence, getting girls in school and stopping child marriages.

Many of the countries that receive funds already have their own positions on abortion — typically restrictive — and have considered it controversial that the US government would fund access to abortion in their country. However, activists have contended that every bit of assistance counts, and that many organizations abroad will be forced to give up funding.

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[Photo Credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
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