Trump’s Global Gag Rule

This weekend close to 2.5 million women and men turned out in more than 600 cities and towns across the world to march in support of a women’s policy agenda that includes access to safe, affordable abortion care.  Less than 48 hours later, Mr. Trump took the first opportunity afforded him to reinstate and indeed expanded the global gag rule—a policy that forces health care providers in low and middle income countries to choose between offering women access to comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care services or receiving U.S. global health funding.  Those that choose the latter will lose their right to educate, counsel, refer for or provide abortion care for women in need—even if they use their own money to do so.  This extension of the global gag rule beyond organizations receiving US family planning funding, to those receiving global health assistance to provide health care services related to malaria, tuberculosis, maternal child health and even nutrition, magnifies the impact of the gag rule and extends its reach to more 60 countries and affects millions and millions of women and families—representing some of the poorest and least resourced families world-wide.

Each and every day, 830 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications.  Most live in low- or middle-income countries where this policy will take effect. The impact will be most acute on women and families living in poverty that find themselves unintentionally pregnant.  As a result of the gag rule, these families will have little to no access to information about, or services related to abortion care.  Many will be left to fend for themselves and will no doubt turn to unsafe methods to terminate their pregnancies. In low income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth, including unsafe abortion, is one of the leading causes of death for young women ages 15-19. Each year at least 2 million women undergo unsafe abortions, and tens of thousands die from them. United States policies such as the Global Gag Rule are complicit in these deaths, forcing health care providers to withhold lifesaving information and services women need to make safe and informed decisions about the size and timing of their families. Those faced with an unwanted pregnancy that cannot see their way to having another child and who have just lost their access to safe abortion care, will instead turn to unsafe methods to terminate their pregnancies, ultimately putting their own health and lives in grave danger.

Reviving and expanding the inhumane, dictatorial global gag rule is just the beginning of the Trump-Pence harm agenda.  We can also expect an expansion of bans on insurance coverage for abortion as early as today. Taking an already bad idea and making it somehow worse, it seems, is to be the hallmark of this reckless and cruel administration.