The Mexico City Policy does not Actually Consider Women's Health

Access to reproductive health information and services is far from a universal right, although it should be. How much access to reproductive health services a person has depends on where she lives, her socioeconomic background, and the political party in power. Reproductive health has become a ball in a political game; used to demonstrate an ideological or religious position, without concern for either scientific evidence or the effects on women's health.

Donald Trump, on his first day in office, reinstated the Mexico City Policy. Often called the Global Gag Rule, the Mexico City Policy restricts access to U.S. government funds for foreign organizations that advocate for or inform women about abortion or provide abortion as a method of family planning with their own non-U.S. funding. (It's important to underscore that the U.S. government has not funded abortion overseas since 1973.)

The Mexico City Policy has nothing to do with public health; it is purely political.

Evidence that this policy is merely a cynical political ploy is the absence of any reference to the welfare of mothers, girls, and families, or to its impact on public health. Over the past decade, as health systems have been strengthened, services have become more integrated. For example, women learn about family planning when they bring their newborns to be immunized. Forcing organizations to forgo U.S. government funding for a broad array of health services if an organization even wants to mention abortion as an option, ensures that this policy will have a detrimental effect on women's health--and adolescent, child, newborn, and prenatal health, as well.

As a public health consulting firm, JSI is well aware that international evidence clearly shows that legal restrictions do not reduce the number of abortions. Instead, they actually increase the number of risky procedures because women resort to illegal and unsafe service providers.

Through our significant experience working in countries around the world, we've learned that women do not want to resort to abortions, but often must when family planning isn't available. We have seen abortion rates plunge in developing countries and Eastern Europe1 in particular--as well as in the U.S., where the abortion rate declined 14% between 2011 and 2014,2 reaching a record low--as we worked with governments to meet women's needs and introduce modern methods of family planning.

If the U.S. government wants to reduce the number of abortions performed, it should support policies that support women, e.g., family planning. Until that happens, poor, undereducated women with fewer options will continue to be the ones who suffer most. And rates of abortion will not drop.

Co-author: Dr. Merce Gasco

2 Abortion Incidence and Service Availability In the United States, 2014, Rachel K. Jones, Jenna Jerman, Guttmacher Institute, Perspectives on sexual and reproductive health, January 17, 2017, DOI: 10.1363/psrh.12015

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