President Obama Rescinds Mexico City Policy

For Immediate Release

Monday, January 26, 2009
USAID Press Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. - President Barack Obama rescinded the Mexico City Policy on January 23, 2009. USAID is implementing this change immediately and issued an official notice informing its field offices worldwide. Additional specific guidance for USAID agreements officers will be issued later today. The Mexico City Policy, which was first announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, directed USAID to withhold family planning assistance from foreign, non-governmental organizations that use non-USAID funds to engage in a wide range of activities, including providing advice, counseling, referrals or information regarding abortion, or lobbying a foreign government to legalize or make abortion available.

In rescinding the policy, President Obama noted the importance of reducing unintended pregnancies as well as working to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. USAID is strongly committed to achieving these goals. His announcement directed USAID to immediately waive the policy's conditions in any current grants; notify current grantees, as soon as possible, that these conditions have been waived; and cease imposing these conditions in any future grants.

USAID places high priority on preventing abortions through the use of family planning, saving the lives of women who suffer complications arising from unsafe abortion, and linking those women to voluntary family planning and other reproductive health services that will help prevent subsequent abortions. USAID is prohibited from providing funds to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortion, as stipulated by the Helms Amendment enacted in 1973. This and all other statutory and policy requirements relating to family planning remain in effect.

With U.S. government support, international family planning programs have been successful. In fiscal year 2008, USAID programmed $457 million for family planning activities. Since the 1960s, the percentage of women and couples using contraceptives in the developing world has risen from less than 10 percent to more than 50 percent. The average number of children born to women in these countries has fallen from six to three. Repealing the Mexico City Policy will help improve the lives of mothers and children through increased access to family planning services and supplies. Global estimates indicate that by helping women space births and avoid unintended pregnancies, family planning could prevent 25 percent of maternal and child deaths in the developing world.

The policy had been in effect from 1985 until 1993, when it was rescinded by President Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush reinstated the policy in 2001, and it remained in place since that time.

USAID Press Office can be contacted at 202-712-4320.