US President Donald Trump yesterday signed an order restricting women across the world's access to safe abortion.

The new President signed the executive order in the Oval Office, surrounded by men.

Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy as one of his first moves in the White House.

The policy enforces a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or promote the option. That means any US federally-funded aid group or other non-government organisation can't assist with, recommend, give advice or provide any information when it comes to the emergency termination method.

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Participants in an anti-abortion rally hold signs that read
Participants in an anti-abortion rally hold signs that read "Stop Abortion Now" as they listen to speakers, at the Capitol in Olympia. Photo / AP

Even without the ban in place, US-funded programs don't perform abortions - that's already ruled out - but they can give provide information. Now with the ban, if they really want to do that, no matter who pays for it, the US government will cut them off.

The policy also prohibits taxpayer funding for groups that lobby to legalise abortion or promote it as a family planning method.

While the ban is a blow to reproductive rights - it's a policy that's been seen before - the setting in which the new President chose to stage its reinstatement has abortion activists outraged.

With his Vice President and staff looking on, the President sealed the deal on the "global gag rule" - there didn't appear to be any women alongside the president when he did so.

The policy has been instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984.

Most recently, former President Barack Obama ended the ban in 2009, and Trump of course made it a priority to move against it.

The World Health Organisation estimates 21.6 million women a year have unsafe abortions in developing countries, accounting for 13 per cent of all maternal deaths.