The Mexico City policy is a foreign aid funding policy that prevents foreign organizations that provide or promote abortion as a method of family planning from receiving U.S. global health aid. In the latest report from the Trump administration, a vast majority of NGOs have complied. But with so much negative media attention on the Mexico City policy, it can be difficult for pro-life supporters to discern whether to take this as good news or bad.
Is the Mexico City Policy actually good for the pro-life cause?
Some criticisms of the policy by pro-choice advocates are familiar. Also known as the global gag rule, headlines of major news outlets have berated the policy’s “attack on healthcare” while calling abortion an essential health service. This kind of claim is clearly rooted in a fundamental misconception. Any service whose end purpose is the elimination of a human life is not health care; therefore, by all logic, abortion cannot qualify. So, from a pro-life perspective, such antagonistic reports would simply indicate that the Mexico City Policy is succeeding at its established goal to eliminate American promotion of abortion overseas.
Of more serious concern, therefore, is the contrasting claim which is also voiced (often simultaneously) by its opponents- that the Mexico City Policy has failed. The most recent set of statistics was published by the Lancet Global Health journal, a partner of the Guttmacher Institute, in 2019. The report found that in sub-Saharan Africa, ”when the Mexico City Policy was in effect (2001–08), abortion rates rose among women in countries highly exposed to the policy by 4·8 abortions per 10 000 woman-years (95% CI 1·5 to 8·1, p=0·0041) relative to women in low-exposure countries”. Naturally, such horrific statistics cause many pro-lifers to question the policy and any leaders who promote it. If more abortions were really the outcome of this policy, no genuinely pro-life person could possibly support it.
However, a closer look at the source of these numbers reveals a more nuanced picture. According to the report, the algorithm used in the study classified a termination as induced for any of the following conditions: “if it occurred following contraceptive failure, if the terminated pregnancy was unwanted (ie, the pregnancy occurred after a livebirth that was reported as unwanted), or if the woman was under age 26 years and was not married or in a union.” Apparently, the study conductors did not actually count abortions. Instead, when collecting data, they assumed that no woman who was young, single, had PREVIOUSLY not wanted a child, or whose pregnancy was unplanned, chose life for her child. Counting abortions this way means the numbers could have been greatly skewed to artificially increase the number of abortions.
In short, these are flawed statistics that offer no valid evidence that the Mexico City Policy backfired. When prominent institutions of the world health field cite them as an argument against the policy, they build up a false narrative designed to gain support for a pro-abortion agenda. Ironically, the absence of credibility in this claim suggests the reverse is true; the Mexico City Policy is in fact working to reduce abortion, and therefore, should be strengthened and upheld at all costs.