The Administration

Trump’s abortion gag rule threatens long-fought global health gains


In one of his first executive actions as president, President Trump on Monday imposed an expanded version of the already harmful global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy.

This is especially egregious considering that just days before, millions of people from all over the world marched in a clear message of defiance against newly inaugurated president Donald Trump — in Washington, D.C., Accra, Ghana, and yes, Mexico City.

{mosads}Having had the incredible experience of joining millions of women (and men) around the world over the weekend made Monday morning’s news from the White House all the more painful.


In its expanded state, the global gag rule prohibits international organizations from receiving any U.S. global health assistance if they provide, counsel, refer or advocate for abortion services — even if they are doing so with their own, non-U.S. funds, and even if abortion is legal in their own country.

This is particularly devastating at a time when we know that global family planning programs have been working.

Currently, U.S. foreign assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs ensure contraceptive services and supplies for 27 million women and couples, and helped avert six million unintended pregnancies, 11,000 maternal deaths, and 2.3 million abortions, the vast majority of which are unsafe.

Now, with the gag rule expanded to all global health funding, over $9 billion of vital health programs are potentially at risk, including programs anchoring the decades-long effort to eradicate HIV/AIDS, as well as the more recent Ebola and Zika epidemics.

As the head of Planned Parenthood Global, I know what’s on the line for women and girls in the U.S. and globally when it comes to U.S. policy.

Teresa de Vargas is the cofounder and executive director of CEMOPLAF, which is one of the largest reproductive health care providers in Ecuador, and a partner of Planned Parenthood Global. What began as one health center in Quito more than 40 years ago has grown under Teresa’s leadership into a national association of 22 health centers across Ecuador.

Teresa and her colleagues at CEMOPLAF can be credited, in part, for Ecuador’s improved rates of contraceptive prevalence in recent decades, which has helped improve the lives of women and their families, and reduce maternal deaths.

But if Trump’s global gag rule had been in effect 40 years ago, it’s possible that Ecuador would be in a completely different situation when it comes to women’s health.

And under Trump’s new policy, however, countless “Teresas” around the world will be forced to choose between providing the comprehensive care, including abortion services, that they know is right for the health of their communities, and being recipients of U.S. aid.

I have heard from women like Teresa in other communities around the world affected by this policy under previous Republican administrations, and the feedback is consistent: The global gag hurts women. The president might have heard these sentiments had he not been surrounded almost exclusively by a group of men as he signed this executive order on Monday morning.

Globally, 225 million women in developing countries still experience an unmet need for modern contraception, meaning that they want to avoid a pregnancy but are currently not using an effective contraceptive method.

United States leadership is key in meeting this need, and stopping  preventable maternal and child deaths by expanding access to family planning services. These investments not only save millions of lives but also save money — according to the Guttmacher Institute, each dollar invested in family planning saves $1.47 in maternal and newborn care costs.

The global gag rule undermines this valuable effort, sending a message to the world that the U.S. is against abortion, and that we prioritize the issue of abortion above everything else. It also undercuts and undermines the efficiency of our foreign assistance dollars.

The truth is, support for access to safe, legal abortion is robust in the United States — with 69 percent of Americans not wanting to see Roe v. Wade completely overturned, according to a Pew Research Center poll released this year.

And 138 organizations across the country have declared their unified stance against the global gag rule specifically. So, not only is Donald Trump imposing an unpopular idea on the rest of the world, but he is also representing us in a way many Americans disagree with.

Senators Susan Collins and Jeanne Shaheen and Representative Nita Lowey introduced a bill in Congress Tuesday to counteract the executive action.

Entitled the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act, passage of this law can permanently end this dangerous policy once and for all. We hope people will voice their support for this legislation. As women around the world stood in solidarity with the women of the U.S., so too must we stand with them.

Latanya Mapp Frett is the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Global.

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Abortion Demography Donald Trump Health Human reproduction International development Jeanne Shaheen Mexico City Policy Planned Parenthood Population Reproductive health Sexual health Susan Collins United States Agency for International Development
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