Consider this a potential canary-in-the-coal-mine moment for Donald Trump and the pro-life movement. Trump insisted in the primaries, to considerable skepticism, that he had truly converted to a pro-life position over the past decade or so. Trump carried that argument into the presidential debates with Hillary Clinton as well, leading to a couple of memorable moments. On his first day in office Trump acted to fulfill one pledge as part of his commitment, and ordered a return to a ban on the use of federal funds overseas to promote abortion:
President Trump on Monday morning signed an executive order blocking foreign aid or federal funding for international nongovernmental organizations that provide or “promote” abortions. …
The so-called Mexico City policy, established by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984, blocks federal funding for international family planning charities that provide abortions or “promote” the procedure by providing patients with information about it, including by offering referrals to abortion providers.
Referred to by critics as the “global gag rule”, the policy has been subjected to a game of political football over the years, with Democratic presidents rescinding the policy once in office and Republican presidents then reinstating it.
That prompted immediate praise from pro-life groups and leaders, including some who were more than skeptical of Trump. One of the most prominent NeverTrumpers, Ben Sasse, almost instantly pushed out a laudatory statement of the return of the policy, albeit without a direct reference to Trump:
“Americans are humanitarians and the Mexico City Policy reflects our heartfelt compassion for both moms and babies. Nebraskans, including many families who donate to charities that heal and comfort around the world, shouldn’t be forced to export abortions with their tax dollars. We want to support Good Samaritans, not global abortion providers.”
The Catholic Association offered several statements of gratitude, but this from Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie offers a substantive rebuke to the Obama administration’s eight-year disregard for American public opinion on the issue:
“Three days after President Obama took office he rescinded the Mexico City Policy, thereby allowing foreign non-governmental organizations to use American tax-payers’ money to perform abortions overseas. Today, three days into his own term, Mr. Trump returns the favor and reinstates the policy. Not cowed by the often-vulgar and stridently pro-abortion demonstrations that took place across the United States over the weekend, the President instead is allying himself with majority American opinion. A recent Marist poll shows that 83% of Americans oppose using our tax dollars to fund abortions in other countries. This in turn reflects the fact that most Americans, even those that favor some element of “choice” consider abortion to be morally wrong. Vulnerable women in developing countries will once again be protected from companies like the International Planned Parenthood Federation who have been using our tax dollars to “help” them by eliminating their children.”
The Mexico City policy isn’t exactly minutiae to the pro-life movement, even if most others might not be as familiar with it. Highlighting its reinstatement by making it a Day One task sends a pretty impressive signal about the priority placed on pro-life action by the Trump administration. This may be due to the influence of Vice President Mike Pence, who is a long-standing leader for pro-lifers, more than Trump’s natural inclination on the subject. Even if that’s the case, Trump made the decision to accept Pence’s advice on this policy and act on it quickly, and that’s good news for pro-lifers.
Here’s more good news, this time from Congress:
The only non-suspension bill the House will vote on next week is the so-called No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017.
Per its name, the legislation by New Jersey GOP Rep. Christopher H. Smith would prohibit federal funds, including those provided to the District of Columbia, from being used for abortions or for health benefits that cover abortions.
The House has voted on a version of the bill in prior years as part of Republicans’ sustained targeting of Planned Parenthood. The vote on the bill is expected Tuesday. No votes are expected Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
This is, in essence, a statutory version of the Hyde Amendment — which Bart Stupak had tried to attach to ObamaCare, only to get bought off by empty promises from the White House. This would change the status of the federal bar on abortion subsidies from budgetary language to law. That would be a huge victory, because it would take another statute to repeal it rather than just an omission during a budget session.
Democrats will balk at this, and it will face an almost-certain filibuster in the Senate, but they can no longer argue that it’s unnecessary. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party ran on the explicit intent to eliminate Hyde Amendments for future budgets and pave the way to federal subsidies for abortions. They made their intentions clear on annual fights over this language, which by the way enjoys broad public support, and that gives the GOP a chance to appeal to the majority in cementing the ban on abortion subsidies into law.
If Republicans can’t stop a Democratic filibuster in this session of Congress, they’ll be able to use that obstructionism in the midterm elections and make red-state Democrat incumbents pay for their cloture votes — just as Democrats paid for the ill-advised war on the Hyde Amendment last year.
Update: Sean Spicer emphasized Trump’s commitment to the pro-life movement, and also to taxpayers:
Press Sec. on Mexico City policy executive order: "He's a pro-life president; he wants to stand up for all Americans, including the unborn." pic.twitter.com/N58NG9AfwO
— ABC News (@ABC) January 23, 2017