With The Stroke Of A Pen, Women Around The World Are Robbed Of Their Reproductive Rights

President Trump on Monday — surrounded by men — signed an Executive Order reinstating a ban on U.S. funding to international organizations that provide information about abortion services, or the so-called “global gag rule.”

What is the Global Gag Rule?

The global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, is a policy that when in place, withholds U.S. aid dollars from international family planning organizations that use non-U.S. funds to provide information about or advocate for access to abortion-related services. It was repealed under the Obama administration and has just been signed back into implementation by executive order under the current administration. Under the global gag rule, organizations that receive U.S. aid are prevented from providing legal abortion or abortion-related services, abortion-related information to their patients and clients, referrals to healthcare providers that perform safe abortions, and advocating for the legalization of abortion.

If an organization refuses to sign the global gag rule, it loses access to U.S funds, donated contraceptives, and technical expertise provided by the USAID international family planning program. If they agree to sign the global gag rule, providers must comply with strict guidelines, often relinquishing control of their services and independent decision-making between doctors and patients.

Why does it matter?

The global gag rule forces organizations to choose between receiving U.S. funds and providing comprehensive healthcare to their clients. During implementation, the global gag rule acts as a barrier to family planning providers engaging with U.S. partnerships.

Often, the implementation of the global gag rule also causes healthcare networks to raise prices and/or close clinics in order to compensate for the loss in funding. With the U.S. as the largest bilateral donor for family planning services, it threatens global women’s access to comprehensive health services including HIV/AIDS prevention, unsafe abortion injury treatment, maternal and child services, and safer sex practices and STI advice for the most vulnerable populations of women in the world.

Overall, the global gag rule threatens women’s health and autonomy around the world. Access to safe, comprehensive healthcare and services critical to families’ livelihoods. By signing the global gag rule into implementation, the lives of the poorest women in the world are now in danger from preventable sexual diseases, pregnancy or childbirth-related deaths, and decreased quality of life from lack of access to safe abortion and family planning services.

Support Comprehensive Global Health Services

Planned Parenthood and nearly 140 other organizations are already mobilizing to defend women’s rights against the global gag rule. Read their statement here for more information on the global gag rule and how to take action.

Social Media Guidance

Here are some sample social media posts to increase awareness about the effects of the global gag rule:

Twitter

  • I oppose the #globalgagrule because I believe women should have safe comprehensive healthcare. http://bit.ly/2jH26WU
  • The #globalgagrule puts women’s health and livelihoods at risk http://bit.ly/2jH26WU
  • Safe comprehensive health care should be accessible to women worldwide #globalgagrule http://bit.ly/2jH26WU
  • I stand with women worldwide against the #globalgagrule http://bit.ly/2jH26WU
  • The #GlobalGag rule contradicts U.S. values of promoting human rights, international development, democracy, and free speech worldwide.
  • By reinstating the #GlobalGag rule as one of his first actions in office, Trump has put politics over women’s lives. https://twitter.com/ppglobe/status/823594060384440320
  • I stand with @NitaLowey @SenatorShaheen in support of repealing the #GlobalGagRule https://twitter.com/NitaLowey/status/823597666819080192
  • I agree with @NitaLowey. We can’t put #AmericaFirst by marginalizing and threatening women’s lives around the world. https://twitter.com/NitaLowey/status/823595712042692608
  • .@SenatorShaheen is right. Politics shouldn’t trump research and women’s health https://twitter.com/SenatorShaheen/status/823580774150635520

Facebook

  • The Trump administration just moved to restrict safe, comprehensive health care access to the most vulnerable women worldwide. As someone who supports women’s rights, global health and development, and gender equality, I oppose the global gag rule being reinstated. http://bit.ly/2jH26WU
  • The global gag rule is a harmful policy that affects the health and lives of the world’s most vulnerable women. I believe that global access to safe, comprehensive healthcare is a human right. http://bit.ly/2jH26WU
  • I support Senator Lowey and Senator Shaheen in moving to protect women’s rights by repealing the global gag rule. https://lowey.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/lowey-trump-reinstatement-global-gag-rule-we-can-t-put-america-first
  • Senator Shaheen gets it right. Politics shouldn’t trump research and women’s rights to healthcare. https://www.shaheen.senate.gov/news/press/shaheen-statement-on-president-trumps-reinstatement-of-the-global-gag-rule

Emily’s List has further background:

Since 1984, Republican Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush Have Been the Only Administrations to Institute the Global Gag Rule. “In 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued what has become known as the “Mexico City policy,” which required foreign non-governmental organizations receiving USAID family planning assistance to certify that they would not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning, even if such activities were conducted with non-U.S. funds. The policy was rescinded by President Bill Clinton and reinstituted by President George W. Bush. It was rescinded by President Barack Obama in January 2009 and remains a controversial issue in U.S. foreign assistance.” [Congressional Research Service, 5/17/16]

The USA Has Given over $14 Billion over 50 Years to Worldwide Family Planning and Reproductive Health Efforts. “The U.S. government has provided financial and other support for international FP/RH efforts for 50 years and is one of the largest donors to FP/RH in the world; since 1965, the U.S has obligated approximately $14 billion to international FP/RH activities. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) serves as the lead agency for FP/RH, carrying out programs in nearly 40 countries, with a focused effort in 24 priority countries. USAID works to increase access to voluntary family planning information, commodities, and services, and is a core partner of FP2020 (see below). While most of its effort is focused specifically on family planning, USAID also supports some broader RH activities, including efforts to address child marriage, female genital mutilation, and gender based violence and the provision of post abortion care. Other U.S. agencies involved in international FP/RH efforts include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (research, surveillance, technical assistance, and a designated WHO Collaborating Center for Reproductive Health), the Department of State (diplomatic and humanitarian efforts), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (research), and the Peace Corps (volunteer activities). Additionally, USAID’s FP/RH efforts are closely linked to its maternal and child health (MCH) programs, although Congress directs funding to and USAID operates these programs separately. Recent years have also seen greater emphasis on coordinating FP investments with HIV efforts through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 4/25/16]

THE GLOBAL GAG RULE HAS LED TO ELIMINATION OF VITAL FAMILY PLANNING PROGRAMS

One Study Found the Gag Rule Led to Termination of Critical Activities Reaching Out to Poor and Rural Communities and Curtailed Availability of Contraception. “After President George W. Bush reimposed the gag rule in 2001, a consortium of NGOs led by Population Action International organized a study to assess the policy’s effects. Between 2002 and 2006, the research teams made site visits to the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They found that in Kenya, for example, the gag rule led to the termination of critical activities run by the Family Planning Association of Kenya and Marie Stopes International (MSI) Kenya—the leading providers of health care to people living in poor and rural communities in the country. In addition, enforcement of the policy drastically curtailed community-based outreach activities and the flow and availability of contraceptive supplies. Government clinics, exempt from the gag rule, were never able to pick up the slack nor regain the trust of women turned away by the NGOs.” [Guttmacher, 6/03/15]

  • 2015 Study: Ghana Saw an Increase in Unwanted Pregnancies – Twenty Percent of Which Ended in Abortion – after Family Planning Clinics Were Forced to Shut Down. “And a 2015 study from the International Food Policy Research Institute found that the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana had to close and consolidate many clinics because of the policy, particularly in rural areas. As a result, there was an increase in unwanted pregnancies in Ghana — and one in five of those pregnancies ended in abortion.” [International Food Policy Reseach Institute via New York Magazine, 11/21/16]
  • Planned Parenthood of Ghana Lost $200K in Funding in 2003 that Led to Staff and Nursing Reductions that Led to Reduction in Family Planning Use. “For example, the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), the country’s oldest and largest provider of reproductive health services, lost $200,000 in USAID funding in 2003 when they rejected the Gag Rule. As a result, PPAG laid off 67 key staff members and reduced nursing staff by 44 percent, leading to a 40 percent reduction in family planning use by those served by the organization. More than 1,327 communities in Ghana were affected by the cuts.” [PAI, accessed 1/23/16]
  • Two Leading Reproductive Health Care Providers in Kenya Lost U.S. Funding in 2001 and Were Forced to Close 15 Clinics in the Country. “Similarly, Marie Stopes Kenya and the Family Planning Association of Kenya (FPAK), the county’s two leading reproductive health providers, refused to comply in 2001 and lost all U.S. funding. The policy forced MSI Kenya to close two clinics in 2002 and the organization was only able to keep further clinics from closing by laying off staff. Unable to raise enough funds to replace the USAID money lost, FPAK closed 15 clinics between 2001 and 2005.” [Population Action International, accessed 1/23/16]
  • Example: Lesotho, a Country with a High Rate of HIV, Lost Access to Condoms. “The NGO investigators found that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had to cut off shipments of contraceptives—already in short supply—to 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association, for example, had received 426,000 condoms from USAID over two years during the Clinton administration. Once the gag rule went back into effect, USAID had to end condom shipments to Lesotho entirely because the association was the only available conduit for condoms in that country. At that time, one in four women in Lesotho was infected with HIV.” [Guttmacher, 6/03/15]

THE GLOBAL GAG RULE HAS NOT MADE ABORTION RARER

The Abortion Rate Is Higher in Countries Where Laws Restrict Access. “In reality, attempts to stop abortion through restrictive laws—or by withholding family planning aid—can never eliminate abortion, because those methods do not eliminate women’s need for abortion. The abortion rates in Africa and Latin America—regions where the procedure is mostly illegal—are 29 and 32 per 1,000 women of reproductive age, respectively; in contrast, the rate in Western Europe—where abortion is lawful on broad grounds—is 12 per 1,000.” [Guttmacher, 6/03/15]

  • A 2011 Stanford University Study Found the Gag Rule Actually Increased the Abortion Rate in Sub-Saharan Africa since Women Lost Access to Contraception. “During the years that the global gag rule was in effect, it resulted in dramatic drops in funding to organizations worldwide that provide necessary family-planning services and other health-care services and an increase in abortion. Indeed, a 2011 Stanford University study found that abortion rates more than doubled in African countries that were most reliant on U.S. family-planning aid during the years that policy was in place.” [NARAL, 1/01/16]

A Large Number of Abortions in the World’s Poorest Countries Are Unsafe. “The vast majority of abortions are sought by women in the world’s poorest countries, and most of those abortions—about 20 million—are unsafe (i.e., performed by an untrained person or in an environment that does not meet minimum medical standards, or both). According to the World Health Organization, unsafe abortion remains a leading cause of maternal death.” [Guttmacher, 6/03/15]

  • …Nearly 70K Women Die Each Year following Unsafe Abortion Procedures. “More than 95% of abortions in Africa and Latin America are performed under unsafe circumstances, as are about 60% of abortions in Asia. Almost 70,000 women die each year from complications following unsafe abortions, and thousands more suffer serious, permanent injuries.” [Guttmacher, 1/23/09]
  • USAID: Giving Women More Control of Their Reproductive Healthcare Could Prevent 25% of Maternal and Child Deaths. “Global estimates indicate that by helping women space births and avoid unintended pregnancies, family planning could prevent 25 percent of maternal and child deaths in the developing world.” [USAID, 1/26/09]

Providing Funding for USAID and UNFPA in 2015 Prevented Six Million Unintended Pregnancies. “Yet, the facts are that the current U.S. investment overseas in family planning and reproductive health of $610 million (including $35 million for UNFPA) is preventing 2.4 million abortions in fiscal year 2015 by averting six million unintended pregnancies.” [Guttmacher, 6/03/15]