Global gag rule is back: One of Trump’s first actions targets the world’s women

Less than 48 hours after millions of people marched for equality in cities across the U.S. and around the world—and one day after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that guaranteed a woman’s right to have an abortion—President Donald Trump made clear that global women’s human rights are at risk.

On Monday, January 23rd, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, also known as the ‘global gag rule’, which bans U.S. federal funding for any international health organizations or NGOs around the world that counsel women on family planning options that include access to safe abortion. The result? Reduced resources not just for reproductive health information, but access to birth control, sex education, and HIV testing. Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rule means that women around the world will lack access to reliable and comprehensive health care, and will not be able to make informed decisions about their health care options when pregnant.

“This is much bigger than abortion,” said Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women. “The global gag rule affects family planning, maternal health, HIV prevention and services, sex education for young people—it affects the whole of women’s health care around the world. Reinstating this policy directly targets the world’s women and girls, and rolls back reproductive health and rights globally.”

This action stands to markedly decrease women’s access to reliable reproductive health care information and services, including access to contraception and STD screenings, and means that fewer women and girls globally will be fully-informed about their reproductive rights. And while Trump’s executive order was framed as a way to protect U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding abortions, the global gag rule has no effect on that; no foreign aid can currently be used to fund abortions under any circumstances under the long-standing Helms Amendment.

The global gag rule does mean that more of the world’s women will be forced to seek unsafe abortions—with potentially devastating impacts on women and girls. For example, WHO research shows that Sub-Saharan Africa had higher abortion rates after George W. Bush reinstated the global gag rule, citing reduced access to contraception causing more unwanted pregnancies. Further, studies conducted by PAI show that the global gag rule often cuts off women’s access to health care services entirely.

“The global gag rule undermines women’s health, rights, and needs,” added Leila Hessini, former Global Fund for Women Board Chair and expert on global reproductive rights. “Organizations who receive foreign assistance are unable to counsel, refer, or advocate for abortion even if they are using funds from other sources.”

With the global gag rule reinstated, it is more important than ever to get money to grassroots, women-led groups around the world who are filling gaps in women’s health care, educating women and girls on their reproductive rights, and advocating for safe and legal abortion. This is a critical moment to get money and support to women’s movements working hard to resist rollbacks around the world.

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