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Huge Crowd Marches on White House to Protest Trump's Global Gag Rule

The president's expansion of the policy "is just the first of many attempts the Trump administration will make to strip away our sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice"

The effect of the so-called "global gag rule" on international health programs and women's health in particular is "expected to be profoundly damaging," according to Human Rights Watch. (Photo: NARAL/Twitter)

Hundreds of women marched in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, protesting President Donald Trump's reinstatement of the so-called "global gag rule"—a "failed, deadly policy" they say "threatens access to safe abortion and other basic healthcare for millions of people around the world."

Trump signed an executive order reinstating and "dramatically expanding" the rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, on his first full business day in office. The policy cuts off U.S. aid for international NGOs that offer abortion services, even provide information or referrals on abortion, or advocate to make abortion more accessible.

"We know that this egregious attack on the health and lives of women and other people who depend on U.S.-funded health programs for their care is just the first of many attempts the Trump administration will make to strip away our sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice," organizers wrote in their call-to-action for Wednesday's protest, one of many marking International Women's Day.

In an analysis published Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted, as others have done, that the rule threatens the health and safety of women and families around the world.

But the organization went further, pointing out that Trump's version of the rule is worse than previous incarnations. Under prior Republican administrations, HRW explained, "the restrictions in the Mexico City Policy applied specifically to U.S. family planning funds"—about $575 million. But now:

Trump's policy extends restrictions to all U.S. global health assistance—which could be up to $9.5 billion in funding support for family planning, maternal and child health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS—including PEPFAR, infectious diseases, malaria, TB, and neglected tropical diseases. The effects on these programs are still unknown but are expected to be profoundly damaging.

"In effect, Trump's global gag rule will produce a funding gap for some organizations that provide the highest quality services in some of the most under-resourced communities and countries," HRW wrote.

There have been international efforts to fill that gap. Just last week, the Canadian government pledged up to $20 million to fund sexual health and family planning initiatives as part of the global campaign called "She Decides." The first gathering of that group, held March 2, raised close to $200 million from countries and philanthropists. 

Learn more about Wednesday's action and opposition to the gag rule under the hashtags #TrumpGlobalGag and #NoAbortionBan:

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