The Trump Administration Proposes Another Expansion of the ‘Mexico City Policy’

President Donald Trump holds up the executive order on the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy at the White House, January 23, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A new rule would apply the existing pro-life policy to contracts and subcontracts awarded by several important executive agencies.

Shortly after Donald Trump took office, his administration reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy, which prohibits the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from funding any nongovernmental organization that performs or promotes abortion overseas.

The policy has been followed by every Republican president since Ronald Reagan enacted it in 1984, and undone by every Democratic president over the same period. But when President Trump came to office, rather than just reinstating the policy, he broadened it to apply not just to the State Department and USAID but also to the Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and the Defense Department.

When it applied only to the State Department and USAID, the Mexico City policy covered about $600 million in U.S. aid directed to international family-planning programs. The Trump administration’s original expansion, dubbed “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” (PLGHA), covers nearly $9 billion in federal aid money. And now, the administration has proposed further broadening the PLGHA so that it covers global-health-aid contracts and subcontracts awarded by the Defense Department, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“Affected Federal agencies provide significant global health assistance funding through contracts each year,” the proposed rule states. “It is critical that such funding is also subject to the PLGHA terms and conditions to effect the President’s directive.”

According to its text, the rule would require “federal agencies to take appropriate steps to apply the policy to new contracts; the plan would also apply to existing contracts, to the extent practicable, when modified to add funding.” Foreign contractors would remain eligible for global health-assistance funding “if they agree to abide by the terms of the PLGHA policy in their contract or subcontract,” and the rule won’t change the amount of such funding available.

Unfortunately for pro-life proponents of the PLGHA, the Mexico City policy historically has been one of the first Republican priorities undone during incoming Democratic administrations. Despite his previous support for pro-life conscience protections such as the Hyde amendment, Joe Biden has already promised that his administration will reverse the policy and, presumably, any expansions of it put in place by President Trump.

The Democratic aversion to the policy has nothing to do with the opinions of Democratic voters and everything to do with the demands of a far-left contingent. Increasingly, proponents of legal abortion here in the U.S. have turned their sights on the rest of the world, demanding that the U.S. government take an active role in advancing global “women’s rights,” by which they mean expanded access to contraceptives and elective abortion.

At the United Nations, this agenda is already being advanced. As has been chronicled here at NRO, for instance, a U.N. commission has spent several months delaying aid during the COVID-19 pandemic by demanding that every country accept tools and funding to expand abortion access as part of their relief packages. While the Trump administration has pushed back against this type of pro-abortion dogmatism at the U.N. and elsewhere in the international sphere, a Biden administration clearly has the opposite intention — despite the fact that Democratic voters themselves are at best ambivalent about funding abortion abroad.

In a 2018 Marist/Knights of Columbus survey, Democrats were almost evenly split on whether taxpayer dollars should fund abortion in the U.S., with about 45 percent saying they oppose the practice. In a 2017 edition of the same survey, that number was 70 percent. Against the wishes of those constituents, allowing NGOs such as Planned Parenthood International to claim U.S. aid is one of the first policies a Biden administration would enact, inspired not least by the disturbing notion that, far from being a necessary evil, abortion is a social good worth advancing around the world with the help of taxpayer money.