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Global Gag Rule denies women’s right to health

January 11, 2018


Shortly after taking office, the Trump administration reinstated the Global Gag Rule, designed to cut US funding to any organization that provides abortion services. While every Republican administration since Reagan has promulgated the policy (and every Democratic withdrawn it), Trump’s expanded version is more disastrous for global health than any prior iteration. Not only does it cut funding to organizations for abortions, it slashes all US government funding – close to $9 billion – to organizations that offer a range of non-abortion related health services if they also provide, refer, or even just counsel about abortion. This expansion means essential health care for diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and cervical cancer will be denied by the Trump administration’s unprecedented interpretation of the Global Gag Rule.

This administration is demanding that health care providers and organizations cut an essential component of women’s health if they are to continue to receive US funding. Without comprehensive family planning services, including safe abortion, women’s health is at risk. There will be more illness, more unintended pregnancies, more unsafe abortions, and, as a consequence, more deaths. One study examining the Bush administration’s less drastic application of the policy actually showed increased instances of unsafe abortions occurring when funds for family planning services were cut.

Women in Bangladesh learning about reproductive health. Photo credit: AusAID

Some larger organizations that offer a variety of services may be able to continue thanks to other funding sources, but many smaller organizations have already shut their doors or severely cut back their programs – including reaching out to women in need of birth control or safe abortion. Others now have to increase charges for previously free or affordable services, refusing low-income patients the health care they need. The Global Gag Rule leads directly to the denial of women’s right to health.

As organizations are forced to curtail their programs, charge fees, or shut their doors entirely, access to accurate, unbiased information on sexual and reproductive health is more important than ever. Hesperian’s HealthWiki provides many women’s health resources, like Where Women Have No Doctor, which is available online in English, Spanish, French, Filipino, Kreyol, and Swahili.

By targeting women’s health, entire families and communities suffer. Health organizations should refuse to comply when they can. If you’re in a position to do so, donate to smaller organizations that in the past have relied on US funding to deliver comprehensive reproductive health care in their home countries. And please share information about this with others, including this video from PAI, because too few people understand the disaster in the making.