JURIST Digital Scholars
Obama repeals international abortion funding restriction
Obama repeals international abortion funding restriction

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official profile] issued a memorandum [text; White House statement] Friday repealing a ban on federal funding for international family planning programs that provide or give out information and counseling about abortion [JURIST news archive]. The Reagan-era directive called the "Mexico City policy" prohibited US funding, typically in the form of grants from US Agency for International Development (USAID) [official website], for lobbying groups advocating legalized abortion. The memorandum said:

These excessively broad conditions on grants and assistance awards are unwarranted. Moreover, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning programs in foreign nations… I direct the Secretary of State and the Administrator of USAID to take the following actions with respect to conditions in voluntary population planning assistance and USAID grants that were imposed pursuant to either the 2001 or 2003 memoranda and that are not required by the Foreign Assistance Act or any other law: (1) immediately waive such conditions in any current grants, and (2) notify current grantees, as soon as possible, that these conditions have been waived. I further direct that the Department of State and USAID immediately cease imposing these conditions in any future grants.

Critics, including Planned Parenthood [advocacy website], have said the previous policy led to worldwide health care restrictions for women [press release]. Supporters of the old abortion funding rule have criticized the use of taxpayer money for something they view as morally wrong.

The law was named for the location of the United Nations International Conference on Population (UNICP) held in Mexico City in 1984, where it was originally announced. The funding ban was enacted that same year, but was repealed in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton. The ban was overturned in 2001 [memorandum text] by then-President George W. Bush. In 2007 the US House of Representatives passed a measure [JURIST report] that would have reversed the funding restrictions, but the bill was never approved by the Senate.