As part of negotiations leading to the two-year budget deal President Trump signed into law today, Congressional lawmakers agreed to end efforts to repeal the Administration’s anti-choice policies through the federal budget process.
The deal follows a July House spending package that would have reversed some of the Trump Administration’s anti-choice and anti-woman policies, including a permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule. The final deal prevents Congressional lawmakers from restricting or blocking the Trump Administration’s policy priorities through the fiscal year 2020 budget process – taking a permanent repeal of the Gag Rule via appropriations off the table for the foreseeable future.
An MSI spokesperson said:
“This is a real setback for women and girls around the world. The Global Gag Rule is anti-choice and anti-woman. It strips women of their ability to control what happens to their own bodies and to decide their own futures.
“The Gag Rule is also causing a frightening regression of women’s reproductive rights around the world. Essential family planning services are increasingly stigmatized. Conversations about reproductive health policies are more polarized. And those who oppose women’s choice feel emboldened. This chilling effect is just as harmful to the health and lives of women as cutting off access to contraception and safe abortion services.”
What is the Global Gag Rule?
The Global Gag Rule withholds US Government funding from any non-US organization that offers abortion services – or even information and referrals – with their own funds.
In 2017, President Trump dramatically expanded the policy on his first day in office. At that time, the US Government was funding MSI around $30 million per year – 17% of our donor income – for our work expanding access to contraception in the world’s poorest countries.
Does the Global Gag Rule block funding for abortion?
This is the great irony of the policy: no. Existing laws mean the US Government does not fund abortion care domestically or internationally, even before the Global Gag Rule was re-enacted.
Instead, the policy blocks funding for some of the world’s largest providers of contraception to low- and middle-income countries, placing women and girls at increased risk of unintended pregnancy, which in turn increases the abortion rate. In fact, a recent study found that the Gag Rule increased abortions by 40% in sub-Saharan Africa. So, a policy that claims to limit abortion has the opposite effect – including in countries with high rates of unsafe abortion. This causes direct harm to women.
How has the Global Gag Rule impacted MSI's work?
Two years since President Trump dramatically expanded the Global Gag Rule, MSI faces a funding gap of $50 million through to 2020 that will result in 1.8 million additional unintended pregnancies and 600,000 additional unsafe abortions. The Gag Rule has hit our work with poor and marginalized communities the hardest – those without any other way to access contraception, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
The countries most directly affected so far by the withdrawal of US Government funding to MSI include:
- Madagascar: Where our voucher program, delivering contraceptive counseling and care to women and adolescents living in poverty, was forced to close. This program delivered more than 170,000 free services to women and girls who could not afford care.
- Uganda: Where five outreach teams - small teams of health workers who travel for weeks at a time to provide remote communities with contraceptive care - were forced to close.
- Zimbabwe: Where we had to reduce by half the number of outreach sites we visit from 1,200 to 600.
How can I get involved?
The Global Gag Rule aimed to cut organizations like MSI off at the knees because we stand firmly and unapologetically for women’s choice. Despite the loss of US Government funding, two years later we continue to stand strong for the women and girls who need us, thanks to a committed and passionate base of supporters who share our belief that every woman has the right to determine her own future.