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Surrounded by men, Trump takes aim at family planning policy

Donald Trump didn't just re-impose a global gag rule on family planning; he did so while surrounded by men in the Oval Office.
Image: Trump, flanked by Kushner, Pence and Porter, welcomes reporters into the Oval Office for him to sign his first executive orders at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (standing, L-R), Vice President Mike Pence and Staff Secretary Rob Porter welcomes...
In his first full weekday as president, Donald Trump kept quite busy, moving forward on a series of executive orders and actions -- an approach to governing Republicans seemed to find offensive when there was a Democrat in the White House.But one of the many policies Trump acted on today stood out as especially important.

Trump ... acted Monday to reinstate the so-named "Mexico City policy" first instituted by Ronald Reagan. That directive essentially barred recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a method of family planning. In the early days of his presidency, Bill Clinton reversed the Reagan-backed policy; President George W. Bush reinstated it shortly after his election; and President Barack Obama revoked it -- each in their first few days as president.

One of the striking aspects of today's directive was the story the visuals told: in a scene reminiscent of the House Republicans' all-male panel on birth control in early 2012, the Republican president re-imposed the global gag rule today in the Oval Office while surrounded by a group of men.But even more important, of course, is the policy itself.As long-time readers may recall, in the Bush/Cheney era, the gag rule undermined family-planning programs around the world for eight years, putting women's health in jeopardy, particularly in the developing world.

The "Mexico City" policy prohibits US dollars and contraceptive supplies from going to any international family planning program that provides abortions or counsels women about their reproductive health options. The policy isn't about money going to pay for abortions. Even those groups that use only private funds for abortion services -- where abortion is legal -- are barred from assistance. This is money going to family planning programs. [...][N]ot only are organizations that provide or counsel about abortion services affected; those that dare to take part in a public discussion about legalizing abortion are also affected (hence the name "global gag rule").... This policy has nothing to do with government-sponsored abortions overseas. Ten years before the gag rule was in place the law strictly prohibited that. This policy is about disqualifying prochoice organizations from receiving US international family planning funding.Under Bush's policy, organizations that play a vital role in women's health are forced to make an impossible choice. If they refuse to be "gagged," they lose the funding that enables them to help women and families who are cut off from basic health care and family planning. But if they accept funding, they must accept restrictions that jeopardize the health of the women they serve.

When George W. Bush re-imposed the global gag rule a few days after taking office, he had absolutely no idea what the policy was. He was overheard telling a group of Roman Catholic charity leaders his directive related to "the money from Mexico, you know, that thing, the executive order I signed about Mexico City."Sixteen years later, White House Press Secretary Reince Priebus today referred to the directive as "the policy in regard to Mexico City."For the record, it's called the "Mexico City policy" because it was announced in 1984 at an international family-planning conference in Mexico City. It doesn't actually have anything to do with the Mexican capital itself.Regardless, in the Clinton era, the United States helped lead on international family planning, promoting sustainable development, empowering women, and saving lives. In the Bush era, that progress was reversed.In the Obama era, we led again. As of this afternoon, in the Trump era, we're again poised to go backwards on this issue.