Murkowski opposes Trump anti-abortion efforts

WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski expressed dismay in President Donald Trump's decision this week to revive a rule that prohibits federal spending abroad on organizations that also perform abortions or provide information about such procedures.

Murkowski also signed on to a bill, with 46 other senators, that would permanently rescind the so-called Mexico City Policy, which bans federal funding for any nongovernmental organizations abroad that even provide information about abortion. The move was the moderate Republican's first move of public dispute with the Republican president, whom she denounced during the election.

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Trump re-enacted the Mexico City Policy, with a memorandum signed Monday, his first workday in the office. The policy, named for the city where it was originally announced by President Ronald Reagan, is also often called the Global Gag Rule. Since its 1984 debut, the policy has been rescinded and reinstated by Democrat and Republican presidents respectively. Trump's order extended the rule beyond its traditional scope of USAID and State Department funds to the entire federal government.

"I'm disappointed that the new administration reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which I believe unfairly discriminates against international public health organizations that counsel women about their reproductive health options," Murkowski said in a statement.

"It's important to note that U.S. funds cannot be used to perform abortions. These health clinics are many times the only option for men and women to receive basic, and vital, healthcare services. By providing consistent family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries, we can reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and improve the health of millions of women and children," Murkowski said.

Murkowski has long gone against the grain of her party by advocating abortion rights. She voted in favor of an amendment in 2005 that would have undercut the Mexico City Rule, and supported President Barack Obama's 2009 decision to rescind the rule.

Murkowski has also opposed efforts to revoke federal funding for Planned Parenthood and said she regretted voting for the "Blunt Amendment," which gave religious institutions the right to decline paying for contraceptives on employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

The bill Murkowski co-sponsored that would permanently rescind the Mexico City Rule was introduced by New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The co-sponsors were largely Democrats, with the exception of Murkowski and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

Erica Martinson

Erica Martinson is a former reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C.