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The Mexico City Policy

By Daniel Briggs
AUL Legal Fellow

At the 1984 U.N. International Conference on Population in Mexico City, President Reagan announced the Mexico City Policy (the “Policy”).  It provides that for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to be eligible to receive federal funding, they must agree not to perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.  The Policy was continued by President George H.W. Bush, rescinded by President Clinton in 1993, and reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.[1][2]  Exceptions exist for abortions done in response to rape, incest, or threat to the mother’s life or health.  The precise wording of the Policy is as follows:

The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) calls for legal protection for children before birth as well as after birth In keeping with this obligation, the United States does not consider abortion an acceptable element of family planning programs and will no longer contribute to those of which it is a part.  Accordingly, when dealing with nations which support abortion with funds not provided by the United States Government, the United States will contribute to such nations through segregated accounts which cannot be used for abortion.  Moreover, the United States will no longer contribute to separate non-governmental organizations which perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.[3]

President’s Legal Authority for Policy

Federal appellate courts have ruled that the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 provides the President the authority to “furnish assistance, on such terms and conditions as he may determine, for voluntary population planning.”  Claims by pro-abortion organizations that the policy infringed upon their First Amendment rights have been rejected.[4]


Impact of Policy

As directed by the Policy, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) requires potential recipients of  U.S. funding for foreign family planning assistance to certify they would not promote or perform abortions – with federal or other funds — as a method of family planning.  In the past, at least two major pro-abortion organizations refused to comply.  The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) (of which the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a major affiliate) forfeited its federal funding under the Policy.  PPFA followed suit in rejecting the Policy, sued and lost (supra), ultimately losing its funding as well.

According to the IPPF, approximately 32 million visits a year are made to over 58,000 of its facilities worldwide.[5]  These facilities are located in many countries that have laws prohibiting or severely limiting abortion.  Undeterred, PPFA leadership is on record as having urged its international allies to break the laws of these nations, stating that “action outside the law, and even in violation of it, is part of the process of stimulating change.”[6]


Impact of Obama Administration’s Rejection of Mexico City Policy

On (insert date), the Obama Administration rescinded the Policy.  As a result, abortion-on-demand will be actively promoted by groups like IPPF and practiced in other countries, underwritten by American taxpayer dollars.  Further, pro-abortion family planning groups — armed with federal funding – will continue to circumvent foreign abortion laws and pressure other nations to capitulate to their radical pro-abortion agenda.

By blocking federal funds from supporting abortion abroad, the Policy preserved comity of nations.  By rescinding the Policy, the Obama Administration has ensured that millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars will go abroad in support of abortion, even where such support is not wanted.

Mexico is just one example[7] of a sovereign nation that has recently bowed to international pressure on abortion.  A 2007 ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court – influenced by legal arguments made by American pro-abortion groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood and opposed by the majority of the Mexican people – legalized abortion-on-demand during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in Mexico City and the surrounding province.[8]


[1] White House Memorandum, dated 22 January 2001, available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20010123-5.html (last visited 8 January 2009).

[2] USAID statement in implementation of White House memorandum, supra, available at http://www.usaid.gov/bush_pro_new.html (last visited 8 January 2009).

[3] Statement of the United States of America at the United Nations International Conference on Population (Second Session), Mexico, D.F., August 6-13, 1984.  Pet. App. 4a-5a, 53a-55a (emphasis supplied).

[4] DKT Memorial Fund Ltd. v. A.I.D., 281 U.S. App. D.C. 47; 887 F.2d 275 (1989).


[5] International Planned Parenthood Federation, “About Us”, available online at http://www.ippf.org/en/About/Default.htm (last visited: 12 January 2009).

[6] 1983 resolution signed by then-PPFA President Faye Wattleton.

[7] A complete list of nations pressured to legalize or increase access to abortion is available online at http://www.nrlc.org/federal/foreignaid/UNCommitteesAbortion.pdf (last visited: 15 January 2009).


[8] Ioana Ardelean, “An Ominous Sampling of International Efforts to Force Abortion on Reluctant Nations,” available online at http://aul.org/InternationalPressur (last visited: 15 January 2009); see also, Mailee Smith, “Mexico Supreme Court Decision a Major Threat to Latin America,” available online at http://blog.aul.org/2008/08/29/mexico-supreme-court-decision-a-major-threat-to-latin-america/ (last visited: 15 January 2009).

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