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America’s Global Abortion Policy

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I can see why a lot of Global South nations might actually prefer to deal with the Chinese than the Americans. Whereas the Chinese are at least consistent, American policy constantly ping-pongs back and forth to extremes, making the entire world’s policies dependent upon who wins the election in an increasingly unstable United States. The global gag rule on abortion is perhaps the most classic example of this.

As it reaches out to allies rattled by four years of erratic American diplomacy, the Biden administration wants to enlist Congress in advancing foreign policies that will withstand the whims of any single president.

An early test lies in the fate of what is known as the Mexico City policy.

Enacted in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, the policy bans U.S. taxpayer funds for health providers overseas that, as part of their medical care for women, offer abortion services. It has been rescinded by every Democratic president since, only to be put back into place by every Republican.

Even when the ban is rescinded — as President Biden did on Jan. 28 — the money cannot be used to pay for abortions.

Instead, and by law, it is used to pay for other health care for women and girls in some of the world’s poorest nations, allowing providers to cover abortion costs with other resources. But when the ban is restored, humanitarian groups that are backed by the United Nations and U.S. Agency for International Development must scramble for other support to cover health care costs.

The constant churn has thrown medical budgets into disarray and forced the shuttering of some clinics.

Crucially, it also has reinforced the notion among some foreign allies of America as an unreliable partner on global needs.

Charles Michel, the European Council president, said on Wednesday that he hoped the Biden administration will work more closely with international partners on a range of issues, in contrast with what he described as a “difference with the last years.”

“We want more fairness, more predictability; we want more stability,” Mr. Michel told an Atlantic Council forum.

Under President Donald J. Trump, the Mexico City policy was not only enforced but expanded, denying aid to additional groups that also provide H.I.V. medicine and tuberculosis treatment. That served as further injury to the insult of American retrenchment from global alliances under Mr. Trump’s watch, on everything from military conflicts to diplomatic accords, which the Biden administration now wants to reverse.

You cannot remain a dominant global influence this way. And while there’s a critique on the left that the U.S. shouldn’t be a dominant global influence, the problem with that is China and Russia are even more problematic global influences and especially the former is well-positioned to step into the breach. But with one of the nation’s political parties increasingly dedicated to outright fascism, the future of the nation being seen as remotely useful is dubious. The funny part about the Trumpist attacks on China is that no one benefits from those attacks and from Republican policies as they existed under Trump more than China.

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