Reflecting on three years of Trump's Global Gag Rule
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As two members of Congress committed to a strong U.S. foreign policy and the effective provision of foreign assistance, we are deeply troubled by what we see around the world three years after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE implemented and radically expanded the disastrous Global Gag Rule on Jan. 23, 2017.

Under this rule, which was first introduced more than three decades ago, international organizations are barred from receiving any U.S. global health funding if they provide, counsel, refer, or advocate for abortion services. It’s so restrictive that organizations cannot offer these services even if they use their own, separate funding, and even if abortion is legal in their own countries.

Lifesaving services — including contraception, HIV prevention and treatment, maternal and child health, and others — are now more difficult to obtain for communities that already face systematic barriers to care. The rule hurts the very people we are trying to help and cuts us off from using many of our most experienced program implementers, which weakens the efficiency and effectiveness of all U.S. global health efforts.

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Every day this dangerous rule is in place, more and more people suffer. Now, three years after the president’s catastrophic decision, the impact and damage of the expanded rule are undeniably clear.

We’ve both seen firsthand this policy’s dangerous effects while traveling abroad. During a recent trip to Bangladesh, where more than one in three children under five years old suffer from chronic malnutrition, Rep. Levin heard of cases in which the U.S. could not allocate precious global health dollars to the organization best suited to meet the needs of those 5.5 million children. Tragically, we are only able to fund groups willing to operate within this administration’s extreme ideology instead of our most trusted and experienced implementers. 

Examples of the Global Gag Rule’s effects are endless. It has been reported, for example, that a Mozambican Association for Family Development clinic tested nearly 6,000 patients for HIV between July and September of 2017. But after the Global Gag Rule forced the clinic to relinquish U.S. funding, the number of patients tested plummeted more than 88 percent to just 671.

The U.S. is a world leader in global health with a powerful legacy of transforming lives. As members of Congress committed to continuing that legacy and being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, we find the implications of this policy unacceptable. We should be building on our global health successes — not tying our own hands.

That’s why the Global HER Act (H.R. 1055), which would end the Global Gag Rule once and for all, is so important. The bill now has a record number of co-sponsors, including many of our newer colleagues who have worked overseas and seen for themselves the challenges of providing health care abroad, and support from a long list of diverse organizations that know the Global Gag Rule is bad for global health, bad for human rights, and bad for gender equality.

We’ve heard from our constituents and advocates around the world who are calling out the harms of the Global Gag Rule. We agree — the U.S. cannot abdicate its leadership on global health because of partisan politics. Passing the Global HER Act would end this devastating policy once and for all, restoring our country’s international leadership and ensuring that women, men, and children around the world are able to access the health care they so desperately need.

Lowey represents New York's 17th District and is chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. Levin represents Michigan’s 9th District.