Just three days after his inauguration, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order Monday barring U.S. federal funding from international nongovernmental organizations that perform abortions.
It’s no surprise that Trump enacted this order, known as the Mexico City policy—or the “global gag rule” by its opponents. Since Ronald Reagan first implemented the policy in 1984, it has been repealed by every succeeding Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican.
Those that support the Mexico City policy, however, are often dishonest in their reasonings, claiming they don’t think American taxpayers should be paying for overseas abortions. The truth is that, just like in the U.S., taxpayer money is not funding abortions, despite what some Republican congresspeople would lead you to believe.
The Helms Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act in 1973 made sure of that. The amendment prohibits U.S. federal aid from paying for abortions. The Mexico City policy, therefore, strips NGOs of all federal aid for offering abortion services, even though they receive outside funding in order to perform those services.
This approach is very similar to what Republican congresspeople have tried to accomplish by attempting to defund Planned Parenthood. Because they can not outwardly prohibit abortion—as it is protected by the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade—they attempt to defund the institution so that it will no longer be able to function. In a roundabout way, if the institution is forced to shut down because it has no funds, then it can no longer provide abortions.
Now that NGOs can not perform abortions without risking the loss of federal funding, the ones who will suffer the most are the vulnerable and poor women around the world who rely on these life-saving services.
A startling 97 percent of unsafe abortions—or those not performed by medical professionals—take place in developing countries. From those unsafe abortions, 68,000 women around the world die each year, making it one of the leading causes of maternal deaths.
With the Mexico City policy now back in action, it’s possible that many of those deaths—and more—will be on Trump.