Trump reinstates ban on US funding for abortion overseas

President Trump on Monday reignited the war over abortion by signing an executive order blocking foreign aid or federal funding for international nongovernmental organizations that provide or "promote" abortions.

The so-called Mexico City policy, established by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984, blocks federal funding for international family planning charities that provide abortions or actively promote the procedure.

Referred to by critics as the "global gag rule," the policy has been subjected to a game of political football over the years, with Democratic presidents rescinding the policy upon taking office, as President Obama did in 2009, and Republican presidents reinstating it.

The move comes amid a roiling public debate about women’s rights, jump-started Saturday by women’s marches held in major cities around the world.

That demonstration will be countered on Friday by the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

The order also comes one day after the 44th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I think the president, it’s no secret, has made it very clear that he’s a pro-life president,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his first briefing Monday afternoon.

“And I think the reinstatement of this policy is not just something that echoes that value, but respects tax payer funding as well, and ensures that we’re standing up not just for life of the unborn, but for also taxpayer funds that are being spent overseas to perform an action that is contrary to the values of this president.”

The move signals the beginning of a long fight over abortion that will likely continue throughout Trump’s presidency.

Trump took traditionally Republican stances on abortion during his campaign, vowing to sign any legislation defunding organizations that provide the procedure and promising to appoint “pro-life” justices to the Supreme Court.

Vice President Pence is also a staunch anti-abortion advocate who passed several laws restricting the procedure while governor of Indiana.

During his time in Congress, Pence introduced several bills that would have banned federal funding for organizations that provide abortions.

Republicans and anti-abortion groups quickly praised the order as an advancement of "pro-life" policies and signaled that more would come throughout the Trump administration. 

"Life is a precious and sacred gift, and we must do all we can to protect it," said Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessHarvey response puts squeeze on GOP Medicaid efficiency is needed now, more than ever In the politics of healthcare reform, past is prologue MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House's health subcommittee.

"I applaud President Trump for taking this important action and look forward to continuing to work together in advancing pro-life policies and protecting taxpayer dollars.”

Democrats denounced the order as an effort to “silence the discussion of women’s reproductive choices.”

“Reinstating the global gag rule returns us to disgraceful era that dishonored the American values of free speech and inflicted untold suffering on millions of women around the world,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDefense bill includes 3,500 more visas for Afghans who helped US troops Overnight Finance: Day three of tax bill markup | Ryan says election results raise pressure for tax reform | Tax whip list - Where Republicans stand | Justice, AT&T spar over CNN sale | 25 Dems vow to block spending without Dream Act Russia crackdown survives NDAA conference MORE (D-N.H.) said the order reflected a “dangerous obsession” with reproductive rights and vowed to introduce legislation to “repeal the global gag rule for good.”

But Republican majorities in both chambers means it’s unlikely such legislation would pass and Trump would likely veto it if it made it to his desk.

Trump's ban will impact foreign organizations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPFF), which provides family planning services in more than 180 countries.

While organizations can choose to comply with the policy and keep U.S. funding, IPPF chose to give up its federal funding when President George W. Bush reinstated the policy.

IPFF said Monday it will not comply with the order under Trump.

IPFF estimated that the organization would lose $100 million from the U.S. for not complying with the order, adding that it would hurt millions of women who rely on it for sexual and reproductive health services.

“IPFF believes in the right of every individual to decide about their own health and well-being.  As an organization that seeks to protect and improve the lives of women, men and children around the world, IPPF and its partners in 170 countries will not sign a policy that denies human rights and puts the lives of women at risk,” the organization said in a statement.

When Obama reinstated the policy in 2009, it came with a new focus on women's reproductive health in poor countries.

The 2016 U.S. budget included $607.5 million in funding for reproductive health internationally, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Updated 3:26 p.m.