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Healthcare, News

Mexico City Policy Challenge Falls Short

On June 29th, the U.S. Court ruled 5-4 in Agency for Int’l Development v. Alliance for Open Society Int’l. that foreign entities do not possess First Amendment rights, and may have conditions imposed upon them when they receive aid dollars from U.S. agencies. 

Alliance for Open Society claimed that foreign affiliates of U.S. groups were entitled to full First Amendment rights, and therefore the federal government could not impose a value-based requirement on recipients of foreign aid. However, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, affirmed that government may impose conditions on an international organization’s receipt of US funds. 

While this specific case dealt with the government’s requirement that certain aid recipients denounce and oppose sex trafficking and prostitution, the ruling has promising implications for the fight for Life across the globe. 

On January 22, 2017, President Trump reinstated and renamed the “Mexico City Policy.” In 1984, President Reagan announced what would later be known as the Mexico City Policy: international non-government organizations (NGOs) may not use U.S. foreign aid intended for family planning to fund or promote abortion. Since then the policy has risen and fallen with each exchange of power. Every Republican president since Reagan has enforced the policy, while every Democrat president has rescinded the policy. In 2017, President Trump reinstated the policy under the name “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” ensuring that whenever U.S. dollars are appropriated to international NGOs for any global assistance those organizations will not use the money to fund or promote abortions. 

If the Court had ruled in Alliance for Open Society that the government had no right to impose restrictions and conditions on the use of foreign aid dollars, then the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy would have been vulnerable to litigation threats and possibly invalidated by the courts. Instead, the Court affirmed what many Americans already knew: when international organizations receive American money, they cannot use that money to destroy lives. This decision was a largely overlooked but tremendous victory for pro-life advocates that will prevent taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortions overseas and protect vulnerable human lives. 

Mary Jayne Caum is a Summer Fellow with AUL and rising third year student at Mercer University School of Law