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Women wait for medical care at a clinic in Mozambique.

Mozambican women and expecting mothers await to receive medical care at the Murrupelane Maternity Ward on July 5, 2018 in Nacala, Nampula Province, Mozambique. (Photo by Gianluigi Guercia/AFP via Getty Images)

Coalition of 200+ Groups Call for Permanent End to 'Neocolonialist' Global Gag Rule

"The global community deserves true partnership from the U.S., but the threat that this destructive policy could reemerge undermines relationships and harms people around the globe."

Julia Conley

More than 200 international healthcare advocacy and civil society organizations on Tuesday issued a call for a permanent elimination of the global gag rule, the executive branch guidance which Republican U.S. presidents have used for nearly four decades to cut off access to reproductive healthcare around the world.

Planned Parenthood Global and the International Planned Parenthood Federation organized the call by groups representing 88 countries and released the statement in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish to signify just some of the global communities which have been harmed by the rule since former President Ronald Reagan first announced it in 1984.

"President Biden took an important step by ending this harmful rule for now, but real relief will not be felt until we can permanently end this devastating policy." —Dawn Leguens, Planned Parenthood Global

"Permanent repeal of the policy is urgently needed to promote sustainable progress in global health and to build and maintain long-term partnerships between the U.S. government, local organizations, and the communities that they serve," reads the statement issued by the coalition which includes Amnesty International, the Irish Family Planning Association, and the Yemeni Association for Reproductive Health. 

The rule is regularly reinstated by Republican presidents and rescinded by Democratic ones, and requires non-governmental organizations around the world to certify that they will not "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning" as a condition of receiving U.S. funding for family planning. 

The global gag rule applies to how NGOs use any funding—not just aid that comes from the United States—and under the Trump administration the U.S. expanded the restriction even further by conditioning aid for HIV/AIDS prevention, maternal and child health, malaria, nutrition, and other programs.

"In the last four years alone," said Planned Parenthood Global in a video it released Monday for a global week of action to end the rule, "it has affected healthcare programs across 64 countries. It's silenced many health centers and advocates and even forced them to shut down completely."

According to a poll (pdf) released last September by Planned Parenthood, 70% of Americans favor permanently rescinding the global gag rule. In January, Democrats in Congress reintroduced the Global HER Act to ensure Republican presidents cannot reinstate the aid restrictions.

"Study after study has demonstrated that the neocolonialist global gag rule devastates healthcare access for people around the world, especially those who already face systemic barriers to care," said Dawn Laguens, interim executive director of Planned Parenthood Global.

"President Biden took an important step by ending this harmful rule for now, but real relief will not be felt until we can permanently end this devastating policy," Laguens added. "The global community deserves true partnership from the U.S., but the threat that this destructive policy could reemerge undermines relationships and harms people around the globe. We come together today to tell the U.S. government: It's time to end the global gag rule once and for all."

On social media, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was among the advocates supporting the call, using the hashtag #EndGagNow.

"The global gag rule is the antithesis of Planned Parenthood's mission and everything we stand for," said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "And we won't rest until it's gone for good."


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