President Trump reinstated a policy on Monday that originated in the Reagan era, prohibiting the granting of American foreign aid to health providers abroad who discuss abortion as a family-planning option.
United States law already prohibits the use of American taxpayer dollars for abortion services anywhere, including in countries where the procedure is legal. But Mr. Trump’s order takes the prohibition further: It freezes funding to nongovernmental organizations in poor countries if they offer abortion counseling or if they advocate the right to seek abortion in their countries.
The freeze applies even if the organizations use other sources of funding for these services.
Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stated their opposition to abortion during the presidential campaign. Mr. Trump had signaled his intent to make the order one of his first acts as president, which pleased anti-abortion activists at home.
“We applaud President Trump for putting an end to taxpayer funding of groups that promote the killing of unborn children in developing nations,” Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, the nation’s largest anti-abortion organization, said in a statement.
Critics said the order reflected the new administration’s disregard of women’s reproductive health rights, whose advocates were an important force in the protest marches in Washington and other cities after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
It revives what is known as the Mexico City policy, so named because President Ronald Reagan announced it in 1984 during a United Nations population conference in Mexico City. Critics call it the global gag rule. Since Reagan, Democratic administrations have suspended the policy and Republicans have reimposed it.
Some women’s health advocates interpreted Mr. Trump’s order as a huge expansion of the policy. Adrienne Lee, a spokeswoman for PAI, a reproductive rights group in Washington, said the order would cut funding to “every program that falls under global health assistance.”
Asked at his first official briefing on Monday what message the administration sending by reinstating the policy as one of its first orders of business, Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, told reporters that Mr. Trump had “made it very clear that he’s a pro-life president.”
“He wants to stand up for all Americans, including the unborn, and I think the reinstatement of this policy is not just something that echoes that value but respects taxpayer funding as well,” Mr. Spicer said.
Health experts say the policy has not led to a decline in abortions in the affected countries. Some research suggests that it has had the opposite effect: increasing abortion rates by forcing health clinics to close or to restrict contraceptive supplies because of lack of funding. Others say the restriction only heightens the risk of illegal and often unsafe abortions.
The impact of Mr. Trump’s order is likely to be felt beyond abortion services, which cannot be carried out with federal funding under a 1973 law known as the Helms Amendment, after former Senator Jesse Helms.
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