February 22, 2019

The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) condemns the new restrictions on Title X family planning programs, announced today by the Trump administration. The new policy, which amounts to a Domestic Gag Rule, prohibits federal funding to Title X providers that offer abortion services or referrals.

“The Domestic Gag Rule denies critical information and vital health care services to the most vulnerable communities in the United States,” said Shannon Kowalski, IWHC director of advocacy and policy. “These grave human rights abuses are just the latest example of the administration’s two-pronged attack on women’s health and rights, both at home and abroad.”

In its first week in office, the administration reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, denying funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations that provide, counsel, refer, or advocate for abortion services. Since its reinstatement, IWHC has documented its impacts alongside grantee partners in Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, and South Africa. Our research reveals disastrous consequences for women and girls. With the new restrictions on Title X funding, the administration will inflict the deadly consequences of the Global Gag Rule on women in the US.

The administration first announced the Domestic Gag Rule in May 2018. The announcement was met with fierce opposition from the women’s movement and medical community. IWHC submitted a comment to the US Department of Health and Human Services in the public review period, and joined more than 100 organizations in denouncing the rule. Nevertheless, the administration has flouted its responsibility to respond to comments and has sought to quickly implement the Domestic Gag Rule despite evidence highlighting its dangers.

For the more than 4 million people who use Title X providers annually, the Domestic Gag Rule will severely limit access to health care. The new funding restrictions will lead to increases in unwanted pregnancies and delay diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and reproductive cancers, among other harmful health effects. As with the Global Gag Rule, the consequences of the Domestic Gag Rule will fall most heavily on populations that—due to systemic racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression—already face health disparities. These are disparities that the Department of Health and Human Services and the US government have an obligation to address, not exacerbate.

IWHC will continue to work in coalition to push for US policies that value women’s health and rights.

Contact: Liza Kane-Hartnett; (+1) 917.498.3346

Photo: Nina Robinson / The Verbatim Agency / Getty Images