May 18, 2018

The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) denounces a new Trump administration rule, expected to cut off funding for clinics that provide abortion services or referrals. The policy, reportedly to be announced today, is a domestic iteration of a brutal US policy already in place internationallythe Global Gag Rulewhich forbids any nongovernmental organization (NGO) receiving US global health funds from providing legal abortion services, information, or referrals, even with their own, non-US funding.

“The domestic Gag Rule aligns the domestic and global fronts of the Trump administration’s relentless pursuit of policies that penalize women for exercising bodily autonomy,” said Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at IWHC. “The denial of safe and legal abortion services is a violation of women’s rights. This policy threatens the lives of women in the US and around the worldparticularly those in low-income communities.”

IWHC recently signed a joint letter by 110 organizations urging Department of Human Health and Services Secretary, Alex Azar, to reject calls for any iteration of a domestic Gag Rule. The letter notes that such a rule would mean that “the more than four million people that go to Title X-supported providers annually would be denied information or counseling on, and referrals for, safe and legal abortion.” The rule would also exacerbate inequality, given that “Title X patients have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, and 43 percent of patients are uninsured.”

Global research demonstrates that restrictions on access make abortion less safe and lead to increased maternal mortality, by driving women underground to seek the services they need. Over the past year, IWHC has engaged with partners in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, to study the effects of the Global Gag Rule. IWHC’s initial findingsone year after implementationindicate that the policy has already limited services, had a chilling effect on collaboration and advocacy, and increased stigma. It threatens to fragment integrated health systems and undermine the delivery of comprehensive health services. IWHC’s full report will be published on May 30.

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Photo: Brittany Brooks, MD, speaks with a patient during a routine visit at Open Arms Healthcare Center in Jackson, Mississippi. (Nina Robinson/The Verbatim Agency/Getty Images)