President Donald Trump issued a memorandum reinstating the so-called “Mexico City Rule” on Jan. 23. The memorandum cuts U.S. funding to agencies that offer abortion counseling to their patients globally.
The name “Mexico City Rule” comes from the original incarnation of the memorandum enacted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and “has since been supported by every Republican president and opposed by every Democratic one,” the New York Times Editorial Board reports.
Kayla Townsley, molecular biology and chemistry student at Portland State also participates in the Reproductive Justice Action Team on campus. RJAT is a club that “works to support the rights of people to make their own decisions about their reproductive and sexual health, and to have access to knowledge and resources to help make those decisions,” according to the group’s mission statement.
Townsley explained that the memorandum this time around expands on the initial gag rule from the Reagan administration.
“It is not just placing restrictions on reproductive health clinics, but quite literally all health clinics, and now applies to a $9.5 billion budget [and] puts access to affordable healthcare for millions of people at risk,” Townsley stated.
The order means not only cuts to family planning or abortion funding but also cuts to all healthcare; therefore, the clinics that will be especially targeted will be those which provide “birth control, cancer and STI/STD screenings, to general check-ups for people of all gender identities,” Townsley explained.
As a personal matter, Townsley said that legislation like the memorandum “is quite literally taking away autonomy over our [women’s] bodies, controlling our access to healthcare and taking away our right to make important and informed life decisions.”
The memorandum partially reads thus: “U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
When asked about the specific portion of the memorandum targeting coercive abortion, Townsley replied, ”Coerced abortion is real and is something individuals survive through, often when domestic and interpersonal violence and abuse is present.”
Townsley continued by stating that the plea to coerced abortion is “just a way to hide what the memorandum actually does—to legitimize and to masquerade the legislation as a savior for survivors of abuse, when it is not.”
Ultimately the question comes down to a fundamental right to choice, which the “Mexico City Rule” is seen as obfuscating by creating numerous concerns like those surrounding coerced abortion.
“There are hundreds of reasons why people may choose to have an abortion, and all are valid because it is that individual’s choice, it is that individual’s body, and it is that individual’s life,” Townsley said.