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Trump blocks aid to aid groups that counsel abortion in other countries

By Doug G. Ware
Trump blocks aid to aid groups that counsel abortion in other countries
President Donald Trump holds up a presidential memorandum he signed in the Oval Office on Monday. One of the actions he signed revived the so-called "global gag rule," which bars U.S. aid funds from going to U.S. non-government health groups in poor countries overseas that perform or recognize abortion as a family-planning service. Pool Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 23 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Monday revived a rule that prevents federal money from going to certain health charities around the world that counsel on abortions.

Trump signed a presidential memorandum in the Oval Office Monday re-instituting the Reagan-era rule. Known as the Mexico City policy, the rule prohibits any money from the U.S. Agency for International Development from going to any U.S. non-government aid organization abroad that provides information about abortions as part of its family planning services.

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The measure, called the "global gag rule" by critics, was first instituted by former President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and has been on and off the books ever since. It has effectively become a partisan hot potato, with Democratic presidents scrapping the rule when they take office and Republicans resurrecting it once they move into the White House.

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Former President Barack Obama scrapped the policy in 2009, just days after he took office.

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"I applaud President Trump for taking this important action and look forward to continuing to work together in advancing pro-life policies," Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, chairman of the House's health subcommittee, said Monday. "Life is a precious and sacred gift, and we must do all we can to protect it."

"President Trump is wasting no time acting on his promises," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the president to build on these actions and deliver results for the people."

Federal law already bars taxpayer funds from being used for abortions anywhere, but the Mexico City rule takes the policy further by blacklisting NGO groups that use money from any source for services that include abortion.

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Critics say the rule puts thousands of women around the world at greater risk, and does virtually nothing to stop the controversial practice. Experts largely agree that abortion numbers generally stay the same, whether the ban is in effect or not.

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Critics say the policy increases the number of women who feel they have no choice but to seek risky abortions.

"Restricting funds to health centers that provide safe and effective family-planning services can only lead to more, not fewer, abortions," the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws said in a statement Monday.

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Opponents also argue that the measure has a dangerous residual side effect -- starving third-world clinics of vital aid that pays for important healthcare services other than abortion.

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"It's telling that one of Trump's first executive actions combines two of his favorite things: silencing anyone who disagrees with him and repressing women," NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said Monday. "With this action, Donald Trump has turned his anti-women rhetoric into policy. ... He really is living up to the lowest of expectations."

"The world's most vulnerable women will suffer as a direct result of this policy, which undermines years of effort to improve women's health," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said. "The global gag rule contradicts U.S. values of promoting human rights, international development, democracy, and free speech worldwide."

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Trump's action came on the heels of the Women's March on Washington over the weekend, and one day after the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described President Donald Trump's action as executive order, when in fact it was a presidential memorandum.

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