Does making America great again require restrictions to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)? Trump and his posse certainly think so. After gaining office, the US President’s first executive orders were to: freeze federal hiring; withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); and reinstate the Mexico City Policy.
Those of a certain political persuasion could muster an argument for freezing federal hiring and the TPP withdrawal, but no matter what your politics it’s extremely hard to mount a case for the Mexico City Policy as an integral component to making America great again.
Trump is not the only president with vagina on his mind, the governance of the female reproductive system has been of critical importance for every new US President since Reagan, who introduced the Mexico City Policy in 1984.
The policy relates to the US provision of international family planning assistance and is heavily focused on abortion politics. In order for a foreign non-government organisation to be eligible for US federal funding they must not, even with non-US funds, perform, advise on, or endorse abortions. This unconstitutional behaviour of suppressing the freedoms of others to engage in public policy debates, prevents the Mexico City Policy being imposed on US citizens; hence the policy not applying to US-based organisations. Interestingly, the Mexico City Policy is not even required to prevent American federal funds being utilised for abortions outside the US, as the 1973 Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act already prevents this, biomedical research, and lobbying on abortion (since 1981).
No one could express my feelings for abortion or President Trump better than Gough Whitlam: “Let me make quite clear that I am for abortion and, in your case Sir, we should make it retrospective.” But, this is not an abortion debate. It’s a debate on America’s predatory behaviour putting people at greater risk in order to progress a moral agenda through a policy that is unconstitutional in their own county.
US funding is a big deal for global SRHR. It gives $607.5million a year, preventing six million unintended pregnancies, which in turn averts 2.3 million abortions and 11,000 maternal deaths. After the Bush administration re-introduced the Mexico City Policy in 2001, abortion rates rose in sub-Saharan Africa and in Ghana, and shipments of US-donated contraceptives stopped in 16 developing countries. Given modern contraception is one of the most important barriers to preventing unwanted pregnancy and there’s an estimated 225 million women worldwide who do not have access, this is a flawed mindset to reducing global abortion.
The Mexico City Policy does not reduce global abortions because it does not deal with the real issue, women’s need for abortion. Although abortion is a last resort, it is still a requirement for many women. And it will always remain an important part of providing global SRHR. Providing SRHR will unlock stifled talent. By allowing girls and women control over the number and spacing of their children, education will become more accessible, unlocking employment and business opportunities, activating their economies and creating a better world.
So to Trump and all who champion the Mexico City Policy, I say ‘go love yourself’. To the rest I say ‘it’s time we look further than government to solve the world’s biggest issues’.