The unintended consequences of the MCP on foreign aid for family planning.



* Sub-Saharan Africa receivs 48 per cent more family planning aid than other regions.

* Countries with high fertility rates and large populations tend to receive more family planning aid.

* The USA's Mexico City Polity (MCP) reduces total foreign aid to family planning by 3-6 per cent per year globally when implemented.

There is an increasing awareness that providing women with the possibility to plan, prevent, and terminate pregnancies is an important component of poverty alleviation and economic development efforts. Despite this, family planning needs remain unmet in many developing economies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Further exacerbating the paucity of donor funds, restrictive foreign policy decisions in the USA, the largest donor both in general and in terms of family planning initiatives, periodically limits the amount of aid earmarked for such programmes in accordance to the ideology of the party in power due to the MCP.

The MCP: background and context

The MCP is a contentious piece of legislation. Adopted during the International Conference on Population in Mexico City in 1984 by the Reagan administration, the MCP placed restrictions on the provision of family planning aid to NGOs, specifically directing USAID to withhold funds from international NGOs that provide abortion-related services. Since 1984, the policy has been enacted and overturned several times. It was first in place from 1984 until the end of the George H. W. Bush administration before being overturned in 1993 by President Clinton; the policy was then reinstituted in 2001 by President George W. Bush before being rescinded once again in 2009 under the newly-elected Obama administration.

The effects of MCP funds for family planning

Theoretically the implementation of the MCP should not impact US family planning aid or overall family planning aid to developing countries for two reasons. First, the policy pertains to NGOs that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning; so aid could instead be reallocated to anti-abortion NGOs or to governments when the MCP is in effect. Second, even if family planning aid from the USA decreases as a result of the MCP, other donors could make up the difference. This fickle US foreign policy should consequently not affect overall family planning funds, but an assessment of the actual effect of the restrictions has not been conducted previously.

By looking at the panel data on family planning--fertility...

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