With the very first act of his presidency, George W. Bush managed in one fell swoop to alienate myriad family-planning groups, women's health organizations, physicians and European allies. A memo to the U.S. Agency for International Development revived what is officially known as the Mexico City Policy--or, less formally, the Global Gag Rule. The order states that U.S. AID cannot dispense family-planning money to an organization unless it agrees to neither perform nor promote abortion. Rather than barring funds for abortion itself--the 1973 Helms Amendment already does that--the policy instead curbs health care providers' ability to talk about medical options at organizations that continue to accept aid. For those that do not comply, the policy means a loss of funds for counseling and contraception.
Many public health experts say the effects of this order today may be more devastating than they were in 1984, when the policy was first introduced. The world is a different place with regard to the AIDS epidemic, the desire for contraception and family-planning services, women's rights and attitudes toward abortion. President Bush's initiative will cut money where it is most needed, says Anibal Fa¿ndes, an obstetrician in Brazil and a member of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. "Consequently, he will certainly be responsible for increasing the number of abortions instead of reducing them."
This article was originally published with the title Aborted Thinking.