She Decides: background information

In January 2017 the United States government withdrew funding from foreign organisations that give women access to, or information about, safe abortion. This puts the future and the work of family planning organisations at stake, and will lead to more unintended pregnancies, abortions and maternal deaths.

The Mexico City policy and the withdrawal of US grants

The Mexico City policy was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan at the UN International Conference on Population in Mexico City in 1984. Under this policy the United States will not contribute to foreign non-governmental organisations which perform or actively promote abortion, even if it does not use US funds for this specific purpose.

The Mexico City policy has since been rescinded by every incoming Democratic president and reinstated by every new Republican president.

Expansion of the Mexico City policy

The new Republican president reinstated the Mexico City policy in January 2017 and also expanded its scope. Initially, the policy only applied to foreign NGOs receiving US government funding in support of family planning work. Now the policy applies to all organisations receiving global health assistance from the United States.

Impact of withdrawal of US funding

Organisations that are active in the area of family planning and sexual and reproductive health help mothers and babies in developing countries. Their work saves lives. Their services include:

  • sex education;
  • birth control;
  • obstetric care;
  • HIV tests and treatment;
  • safe abortion.

The continuation of these services is at stake now that the US has suspended funding. In recent years, US grants have made up a large share of the family planning organisations’ income – some $ 600 million a year. The organisations are still taking stock of the impact the measure will have, but provisional calculations show an increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions, which will mostly be carried out in unsafe conditions. In addition, more women will die in childbirth.