Trumping Women’s Rights Digest: Delivering a Global Lens on the Administration’s Fight Against Women’s Health
Global HER Act Provides Opportunity to End Global Gag Rule
Just three days after taking office in January 2017, President Trump undermined women’s health worldwide by reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule. Two years later, Congress has an opportunity end this dangerous policy. The Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights Act (Global HER Act) would permanently end the Global Gag Rule and ensure that organizations never again have to choose between receiving critical funding and offering comprehensive reproductive health care.
For 35 years, the Global Gag Rule, which bans US funding to organizations that provide, counsel, refer, or advocate for abortion services—even with non-US funds—has played politics with women’s health. It forces clinic closures, reduces access to services, fractures health systems, and weakens civil society—resulting in deadly consequences for women.
The Global HER Act is slated for reintroduction in Congress in the coming weeks. By passing the bill, Congress can ensure that US global health assistance is grounded evidence rather than anti-choice ideology. IWHC is hopeful that with the support of congressional reproductive health champions and the pro-choice House of Representatives the Global HER Act can move beyond its status as a bargaining chip and become a key tenet of a US foreign policy that values women’s human rights.
“Abstinence-Only” Goes Global
“Abstinence-only” advocate Valerie Huber has been reassigned to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Global Affairs Office. Huber’s actions on the US delegation to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women in 2017—where she declared the US State Department “anti-abortion” and emphasized the importance of “refusal skills” rather than access to contraception—provides insight on how her ideology may impact US global health policy.
In her new role she will be a leading voice in global health diplomacy, representing the US in global negotiations with multilateral organizations and foreign governments. An ardent supporter of the administration’s anti-choice ideology, Huber is expected to censor sexual and reproductive health information and push to remove references to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and comprehensive sexuality education, from global health documents.
Huber previously served as a senior policy advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, where she promoted abstinence-only education—which instructs individuals to abstain from sex until marriage rather than providing unbiased information on how to reduce risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections—and decided which groups received federal family planning funds.
Turnover at the State Department
Mari Stull, who served as a senior advisor in the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs—and has been sharply criticized by human rights advocates—left her position in mid-January.
Stull was influential in the State Department and played a key role in undermining US leadership at the United Nations. She championed budget cuts to the institution—including the restriction of funds for women’s health—and was a key supporter of US efforts to weaken UN commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Stull gained notoriety for compiling loyalty lists and vetting State Department employees’ alignment with the administration’s ideology. Investigations are currently underway to assess whether the State Department improperly retaliated against civil servants for their personal views.
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Photo: Jonathan Torgovnik