Global Gag Rule increased abortions by 40% in sub-Saharan Africa

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A new study finds the Global Gag Rule increased abortions by 40% in sub-Saharan Africa, providing crucial evidence about the devastating impact of the policy on vulnerable women and girls.

The study, published today in The Lancet, spans two decades from 1995-2014 and found that when the Gag Rule was in effect, abortion rates in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 40% in countries more reliant on US aid. Many of these abortions are likely unsafe.

“This important study proves that attempts to stop abortion through restrictive laws or punitive policies like the Global Gag Rule do not work because they do not eliminate women’s need for safe abortion care,” said Marjorie Newman-Williams, President of MSI United States. “This study adds rigorous evidence to what MSI providers see every day: The Global Gag Rule only serves to deny women access to contraception and safe abortion, stripping them of their ability to make choices about their own bodies, lives and futures.”

The study also found that the Global Gag Rule reduces contraceptive use and increases unintended pregnancies: reinforcing that organizations like MSI that provide or counsel on safe abortion care are also key to providing access to contraception.

Inonge Wina-Chinyama, Youth Advisor at MSI Zambia, recently discussed how restrictions on reproductive health are counterproductive on BBC World News.

Under the latest version of the Global Gag Rule - which President Trump reinstated on his first day in office in January 2017 – 1.4 million women and adolescent girls globally will lose access to MSI services by 2020. The loss of MSI services alone will result in:

  • 1.8 million unintended pregnancies
  • 600,000 unsafe abortions
  • 4,600 maternal deaths

However, there is hope: The study found that the impacts of the policy reversed between 2009 and 2014, when the Global Gag Rule was not in effect under the Obama Administration.

Newman-Williams said: “Women and girls pay the price for cruel policies like the Global Gag Rule: from the adolescent girl who could have prevented an unplanned pregnancy, so she could finish school, to the mother of five who could have avoided an unsafe, backstreet abortion.

This study adds new urgency to efforts that would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule. We owe it to women and girls around the world who have lost access to contraception and safe abortion, and control over their bodies, lives and futures. They deserve better than the Global Gag Rule.”

Our Global Impact Last Year


women using a MSI
method of contraception


unintended pregnancies


unsafe abortions prevented


pregnancy-related deaths prevented