May 16, 2017

New York—The Trump Administration released a blueprint, “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” that explains how the Global Gag Rule—which prohibits foreign organizations from using their own, non-US funds to provide abortion services, information, or referrals—will be expanded to include almost all global health assistance. It will affect $8.8 billion in global health funding in more than 60 countries by the State Department, US Agency for International Development, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense.

Far from protecting life, the policy will put the lives of women, men, young people, and children at risk. “This expanded policy punishes women and others whose access to health services is already limited,” said Shannon Kowalski, Director of Advocacy and Policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition. “By putting safe abortion and other essential health services further out of reach, this policy will cost women’s and girls’ lives.”

President Trump’s expanded Global Gag Rule applies to programs addressing HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and malaria, among other health issues. Foreign organizations that refuse to agree to the policy will have to forgo US funding.

The Global Gag Rule was first introduced by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and over the years has been rescinded by Democratic administrations and reinstated by Republican ones. Despite its purported goal of curbing abortion, the rule resulted in an increase in unintended pregnancies, abortions, AL and maternal deaths in sub-Saharan African countries during the George W. Bush Administration. The rule also had far-reaching negative effects, such as HIV prevention efforts.

Trump’s expanded Global Gag Rule will be even more damaging. “Clinics will be forced to shut and health providers will be unable to offer their clients the full spectrum of care they need. Women who are seeking abortions will have no choice but to resort to clandestine providers, who are not trained or equipped,” said Kowalski.

Representative Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act, which would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule. IWHC joins many other organizations in calling on Congress to support the Gag Rule’s permanent repeal.

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Photo: Pierre Holtz for UNICEF