President Donald Trump on Monday reinstated the Mexico City policy — otherwise known as the Global Gag Rule — which prohibits organizations that receive U.S. aid from providing or even talking about abortions. Just one day later, however, two Congresswomen introduced legislation into the House that would permanently repeal the rule. Unfortunately, there’s almost no chance it will actually pass.
The Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday by Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, a Democrat from New York. Democratic New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen is set to introduce it in the Senate as well. The legislation would permanently revoke the Mexico City policy, which was first enacted in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan.
Proponents of the Mexico City policy claim it prohibits U.S. taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions overseas. But in reality, it’s been illegal for U.S. foreign assistance to cover abortion costs since the Helms Amendment was implemented in 1973. Under Helms, organizations that offered, talked about, or made referrals for abortions already had to cover those costs on their own dime. So, the Mexico City policy forces groups providing reproductive health services globally to decide whether to continue to receive U.S. funding, or keep providing comprehensive care.
“[The Global Gag Rule] has not decreased the rate of abortions and unwanted pregnancies under previous Republican administrations,” Lowey said in a statement. “In fact, its severe limits on access to family-planning services will dramatically erode progress on maternal and child health, and the policy will weaken the effectiveness of our foreign assistance by making ineligible some of the most capable and effective international partners.”
The HER Act would ensure that eligible organizations can keep providing health services with U.S. funds, while continuing to pay for anything abortion-related on their own dime (per the Helms Amendment). It also hopes to help expand women’s health programs abroad.
Because it’s being introduced into a Republican-controlled Congress, there’s almost no chance the HER Act will actually pass. Instead, its proposal is largely a symbolic move on behalf of Democrats to have their disapproval of Trump’s reinstatement of the Gag Rule officially recorded.