Biden Repeals Ban on Taxpayer Funding for International Abortion Providers

Move has wide-ranging foreign policy implications

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January 28, 2021

The Biden administration rescinded a policy Thursday that prohibits taxpayer funding for abortion providers overseas.

The move fulfills a campaign promise from President Joe Biden, who pledged to make repealing the Mexico City policy, referred to by its critics as the "Global Gag Rule," one of his first moves in office. Under the Obama administration, the abortion industry received millions of dollars thanks to the repeal of the policy, which was then reinstated under President Donald Trump. The United States Agency for International Development guided tens of millions of dollars in funding to Planned Parenthood and its international affiliates during Barack Obama's time in office.

Republican officials and pro-life groups condemned the move. Sen. Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) praised the Mexico City policy for combating abortion around the world and criticized Biden's disregard for "oppressed and marginalized" people. 

"The Mexico City policy protects babies, and it's shameful that reversing it is one of the Biden administration's first priorities," Sasse told the Washington Free Beacon. "America is a shining city on a hill because we take the side of the oppressed and marginalized, not because we export abortion."

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini criticized Biden for defying public opinion. In a January poll from the Knights of Columbus and Marist, more than three-fourths of overall respondents said they oppose using taxpayer money to fund abortions overseas. Notably, 64 percent of respondents who identified as "pro-choice" said they opposed the practice.  

"Joe Biden's promise to repeal the Mexico City policy is deeply disappointing, especially when the president-elect says he wants national unity," Mancini said. 

As part of its reinstatement of the policy, the Trump administration cut off funding to the United Nations Population Fund, an international organization that provides support for reproductive health programs. The Trump administration found that the UNFPA directly partners with a Chinese entity involved in carrying out birth and population control methods. These methods potentially extend to the population control of Uighur Muslims, which former secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared a genocide shortly before leaving office.

"We expect that the new administration will restore federal funding for UNFPA—another international promoter of abortion that has even backed China's brutal child limit policies, which include forced abortion," said Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List.

Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) blasted Biden's decision as undermining the United States' human rights agenda in China.

"It's safe to say Joe Biden will become the most pro-abortion president of my lifetime," Banks told the Free Beacon. "Part of his pro-abortion agenda will be forcing U.S. taxpayers to once again fund abortions in foreign countries—a decision that inadvertently helps fund the Chinese Communist Party's genocide against the Uighur population in China. Reversing this important pro-life policy is irresponsible and wrong."

Michael Sobolik, a research fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said that the move could cause problems for Biden's approach to confronting Beijing.

"If there's a genocide happening in China, we should all be able to agree that we should not be contributing directly or indirectly to it," Sobolik said. "With an official finding of genocide, my goodness, has there been a better reason than now to second guess funding these types of entities inside China?"

The policy is part of a tug-of-war between Democratic and Republican presidential administrations. Instituted under the Reagan administration, the policy has been enacted by Republican presidential administrations and repealed by Democratic presidential administrations. In 2019, Vice President Kamala Harris also joined a Senate push to pass legislation permanently repealing the policy.