How the Global Gag Rule Harms Women and Girls Worldwide

Yesterday, President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson revealed their plans to implement the global gag rule, putting the health and lives of women and girls around the world at risk. In keeping with the far-right’s narrow vision of women’s rights and public health, they announced a policy titled “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” vastly expanding the Mexico City Policy and forbidding U.S. global health assistance from funding any foreign NGOs that provide abortions, proactively counsel patients about abortions or advocate for the liberalization of abortion laws. To be clear, this policy is not simply a reinstatement of the global gag rules of previous Republican presidents. Rather, this is a deliberate and aggressive expansion of the policy’s scope. Previous global gag rules limited only the use of family planning and reproductive health dollars, whereas the Trump-Tillerson iteration conditions funds from all U.S. global health programs, including those responding to the HIV epidemic, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and malnutrition. This expansion of the Global Gag Rule is dramatically increasing the number of women and girls whose access to health care and basic human rights are being curtailed by restricting the information and services they need to make decisions about their health.

Ironically, the cynically-titled “Protecting Life” policy will, in practice, only serve to increase human suffering, leading to more unintended pregnancies and life-threatening unsafe abortions. And, the burden will be felt by the most marginalized: including women, girls, LGBTI people, and sex workers—who too often fall through the cracks of national health systems and who get their care from the very kind of high-quality NGOs that deliver rights-affirming health care to their communities. AJWS stands arm in arm with our NGO partners in the developing world working to overcome the structural barriers that restrict the ability of women and rights to exercise their sexual rights. Only when the human rights of vulnerable populations—including the rights of women and girls to exercise agency over their bodies and lives—are fully achieved, can we truly protect the very lives that the Trump Administration callously puts at risk.