Day One: President Trump follows through on one of his big campaign promises to the American public. Though the move is in staunch contrast to his pro-choice stance in the past, Trump reenacts by executive order the “Mexico City policy” that Barack Obama repealed back in 2009. The anti-abortion policy has been popular amongst Republicans, enacted by every Republican president since Reagan first did in 1974. The executive order satisfies Trump’s largely pro-life voter base and sets a firm tone amidst much controversy early into his presidency. But the role of the “Mexico City policy” in reducing abortions in America appears to be counterproductive and misinformed.
Trump’s executive order is just the beginning of a misguided plan by many Republicans to completely defund Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. The policy dictates that Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) cannot receive government funding if they, or any of their affiliates, perform or promote abortions in any part of the world. A statute already exists in the United States to prevent such organizations from using funds for abortions domestically. The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prevents any organization from spending any federal, state, or local funding received for such healthcare services. With the amendment reauthorized by every president since that year, the Mexico City policy simply serves to reduce the availability of abortions services globally through the threat of decreased funding for NGOs, increasing potential risk to low-income and middle-class families that would seek other vital medical assistance.
Planned Parenthood and their international affiliates performed 9,455,582 health care services to women, men, and families from January 2013 to October 2014, according to their 2014-2015 Annual Report. While many politicians cite the NGO as a major player in abortions, abortion services surprisingly only accounted for roughly 3% during that time period. The organization receives 43% of its annual revenue from governmental funding, which is 19% more than from non-governmental service revenue and 16% more than from private contributions. This massive amount of government funding helped provide more than 4.2 million HIV and STI tests for men and women, nearly 3 million forms of contraception, and over 1 million pregnancy tests for the underprivileged and those in need around the world. Large funding cuts to Planned Parenthood on the superficial belief that it reduces an insignificant portion of services the organization provides recklessly endangers the health of millions of people worldwide.
The Trump administration seems to only care about pleasing its constituents with regards to abortion, sacrificing the health of millions of people worldwide. A study by researchers at the Department of Medicine and School of Medicine at Stanford University compared the effect of financial assistance to Sub-Saharan African countries and the rates of abortion in those regions from 1994-2007. Looking at countries with significant financial aid from the US (high exposure) and lesser amounts of aid (low exposure), they found that the reinstatement of the Mexico City policy in 2001 under Pres. Bush correlated with a 2.55 times increase in the rate of abortion. They indicated that the rates in low exposed areas remained stable, suggesting no other external causes to increase the rate of abortion by a large factor.
The researchers state that the effect may not be as great in other countries receiving health care aid from the US, but the message is pretty clear: evidence strongly suggests the Mexico City policy increases rates of abortion abroad. If evidence from the past 30 years exists on the matter, it
begs the question whether the Trump administration was adequately informed in their decision. The policy that is ritually reinstated by Republican presidents falls short of completing their agenda to reduce the prevalence of abortions in America. Of course, the scary alternative is that the administration willingly ignored the facts to fulfill a shallow, empty, incorrect campaign promise at the expense of the people.
The President’s main goal is not to police the world, nor solve all of their problems: public health care included. And while one might hope our nation’s leader an altruistic man, many Americans feel that America’s issues – health care being a huge one – should come first. But the Mexico City policy shows no significant, positive effect internationally or domestically.
A study by the Guttmacher Institute, a group focused on researching and educating about sexual and reproductive health, suggests no significant correlation in the reduction of abortions and decreased access to those services. The study announces that abortion rates have hit an all-time low in the US, reaching 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women since the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. Looking at 2011-2014, the researchers found a decline in all but six states with the greatest declines in the South and West regions. However, they found no correlation nationwide between a decrease in abortion clinics and decrease in abortion rate for the regions. Although the researchers provided no clear reason for the decline in abortion rates, they suggested that increasing amounts of contraception and family planning access might be the main cause during the three-year period, as well as the last three decades.
By threatening to defund Planned Parenthood and other NGOs for offering abortion services, the President succeeds in the exact opposite of his promise to reduce abortions in the US. Research shows that the Mexico City policy, historically, has no significant effect on reducing abortions in the United States, and actually increases the rate of abortion in many countries internationally. It consequently shows that contraceptive services and products play the biggest role in reducing abortion rates over the years, services that Planned Parenthood and other NGOs perform in far greater numbers than they provide abortions. With the Hyde Amendment in place for decades, the policy’s reinstatement ignorantly and horrifyingly risks the health and lives of millions of American men, women, and families. What a strange way to “Make America Great Again”.
Featured image: By Mark Schierbecker – Own work, Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45408821