New Scientist | US Election 2004

In 1984, at a population conference in Mexico City, President Ronald Reagan dropped a bombshell. He announced that thereafter, any non-governmental organisation that provided abortions, counselled about abortion, advocated abortion in any way, or was affiliated with other organisations that did any of these, would be barred from receiving US money, supplies, training or technical support.

It was not enough that 11 years earlier the US had decided that not a single penny from its taxpayers could be used to pay for abortions overseas. Now it wanted to punish proximity to the deed as well.

What has become known as the Mexico City policy -- or the 'global gag rule' by opponents -- sent aid organisations into turmoil. NGOs had to quickly decide whether they would stand on principle and forgo American largesse or sever their ties with anything even faintly to do with the termination of a pregnancy.


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