The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


Yvette Aguilar


The mortality rate of women living in developing countries is often higher due to lack of family planning services and unsafe abortions. The United States has been providing foreign assistance and financial aid since the conclusion of World War II. One example is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which focuses on providing long-range economic and social development support to developing countries. Many nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rely on this aid to fund their programs. However, in 1984, restrictions introduced at the International Conference on Population in Mexico City forbade international planning services which provided or advocated abortions. These restrictions, known as the Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule, endanger the lives of women worldwide. NGOs play an essential role in advancing the rights of women worldwide. The Global Gag Rule impedes this role because NGOs operating under these restrictions face audit at any time and will suffer penalty for violation. For this reason, many foreign NGOs have halted all abortion related activities, even ones that may be allowed under the Mexico City policy. This is due to fear of losing funding, and forces women to seek unsafe abortions, compounding the high mortality rate. Proposals for repeal of the Mexico City policy with the harshest effect is necessary. More specifically, the removal of the section in the Mexico City policy that includes lobbying in the definition of “promotion of abortion.” By removing that phrasing, NGOs would be able to lobby for abortion reform in their countries while still providing family planning services with USAID funds. Amending the Global Gag Rule will help women in developing countries receive vital access to family planning services without fearing loss of funding from USAID.

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St. Mary's University School of Law