Healthcare providers and human rights advocates sounded alarm after the Trump administration announced Tuesday moves to attack reproductive and healthcare rights including a further expansion of the global gag rule, which blocks U.S. aid funding to groups that facilitate or work on abortions.
"This is unethical, dangerous, and unacceptable," said Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
— NARAL (@NARAL) March 27, 2019
Speaking to the press Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced "further refinements" to the rule. Known formally as the Mexico City Policy, President Donald Trump—flanked by anti-choice Vice President Mike Pence—reimposed the rule in expanded form in 2017. The 1984 rule was struck down by executive order by former President Barack Obama in 2009.
"The global gag rule is already robbing women of their agency and it is already costing them their lives. The further extension of this policy will only make things worse." —Shannon Kowalski, IWHC
The rule's reimposition has already threatened communities' access to healthcare across the world. U.S. global health funds to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that provide or even just refer or counsel about abortion care with their own funding sources are banned under the rule, thus starving the NGOs of funds needed for critical health services including vaccinations, nutrition, and child health programs. With its newest iteration of the rule, the Trump administration prevents those funds from going to NGOs that in turn help other NGOs providing those services.
In a second of one-two punches the administration delivered to women's rights, CNN reported that "Pompeo said that the U.S. would also reduce funding for the Organization of American States [OAS], saying that an arm of the international organization had conducted abortion-related advocacy."
Women's advocates say the impacts have already been disastrous and deadly—and are poised to get worse.
"Two years into the sweeping expansion of the global gag rule, there are countless examples around the world of patients losing access to healthcare, especially in places where maternal deaths, HIV rates, and unmet need for contraception are unacceptably high," said Wen.
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"Communities have lost access to essential life-saving services such as HIV testing, antiretroviral medications, nutritional support, birth control, and pregnancy care. Further expanding the rule will have the most harmful impact on the people who already face barriers to care—including women and girls, communities of color, people with low incomes, youth, and LGBTQ communities," she said.
"There is no question," added Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC). "The global gag rule is already robbing women of their agency and it is already costing them their lives. The further extension of this policy will only make things worse."
Brian Dixon, senior vice president of media and government relations at Population Connection Action Fund, also condemned the broadening of the gag rule, and deemed the targeting of OAS a "ludicrous attack."
"Criminalized abortion in Latin America is, without question, a violation of human rights. Just weeks ago, we read of a young girl in Argentina who was made pregnant in a vicious rape. Denied the abortion she requested, she was forced to carry her unwanted pregnancy to 23 weeks when she underwent a C-section—a much more dangerous procedure. She was 11," he said.
With the new announcement, Dixon continued, "Pompeo and his boss took the side of those who denied her care."
"As is the pattern with this president, when faced with a question of choosing between oppressors and the oppressed," said Dixon, "Trump stood with the oppressor."
The reproductive rights groups are calling for passage of the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act to repeal the global gag rule.
We're proud to be among nearly 170 domestic & global organizations that oppose the Global Gag Rule. It's time to permanently & legislatively end the #GlobalGagRule once & for all. Contact your member of Congress & tell them to support the Global HER Act: https://t.co/leI43nGrsv pic.twitter.com/S7ZdEeFcpV
— CHANGE (@genderhealth) February 7, 2019