Sunday, 25 January 2009

Mexico City policy

I've subscribed to the feed from the White House, and it makes interesting reading, particularly from a foreign policy perspective. One such move, related to family planning, made my jaw drop. Or rather, the policy that was being revoked had that effect on me.

Non-governmental organisations, receiving money from the US government would not be allowed to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning, or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions. That's the way it started in 1984. The August 1984 announcement by President Reagan of what has become known as the "Mexico City Policy" directed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand this limitation and withhold USAID funds from NGOs that use non-USAID funds to engage in a wide range of activities, including providing advice, counseling, or information regarding abortion, or lobbying a foreign government to legalize or make abortion available.

Nine years of this later, Bill Clinton revoked the policy. Only for it to be reinstated by George W. Bush, who extended the policy to "voluntary population planning" assistance provided by the Department of State. Barack Obama has got rid of this now. I'm glad he has.

It is, in my mind, not the business of the US government (or any government for that matter) to interfere with family planning in overseas countries, by forcing American / Western morals on the subject of abortion or even family planning down the throats of foreign nations. The policy that has now gone into the dustbin can safely be labelled positively colonial.

Family planning in the Third World is desperately important, and whilst I agree that using abortion in this way is very dicey to say the least (for medical reasons), other methods are available, which should be introduced with sensitivity towards local faiths and customs.

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