The U.S. likes to think of itself as the savior of the rest of the world, but that illusion has been severely stressed by Donald Trump’s administration. Last month, Trump banned international aid for any non-governmental organization that provides information about abortions, and the Dutch government responded by setting up a fund to make up the shortfall and pledging $10 million to start it off. Now, Norway has pledged an additional $10 million to this fund, which hopes to make up the $600 million funding gap caused by the ban.
The policy that Trump reactivated to institute this ban is called the Mexico City Policy, or the global gag rule. First introduced under under Ronald Reagan in 1984, this policy has been a lynchpin of reproductive healthcare debates since then, and its status has been, perhaps unsurprisingly, drawn along party lines. Bill Clinton rescinded the gag rule, only for George W. Bush to reinstate it. Barack Obama rescinded the policy again, and now it’s back, since January 23, under Trump.
The Mexico City Policy requires foreign NGOs to pledge that they will not use their non-U.S. funding to provide abortion counseling or referrals, or promote abortion as a method of family planning. If they do so, the U.S. will cut its funding to the organizations.
For example, imagine that an international organization is helping to fight the proposed abortion laws in Poland, where pregnancies from rape or incest, or those that endanger a mother’s life, will all be made illegal. Now, Trump would withdraw funding from that organization.
Or what about an NGO that includes abortion as part of its healthcare education programming in developing countries? Sorry, says Trump. No more money for you. Sad!
Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy comes with an extra knife twist: The U.S. will now also withhold HIV/AIDS funding and maternal and early-childhood funding from NGOs that also provide abortion information, something that even George W. Bush avoided.
It’s unlikely that this on the part of countries like the Netherlands and Norway will match the missing $600 million without much more international help. The situation demonstrates just how much influence a U.S. president can have around the world–and how devastating it can be if that influence is used to obstruct necessary resources. Trump’s personal stance on abortion remains ambiguous, but the issue, like climate change, is a touchstone for Republican party loyalty. Reinstating the global gag rule is a way for Trump to draw himself inside party lines, while meanwhile, millions of women are forced to have babies that they can’t care for, or endure childbirth that may kill them. That’s not saving anyone.