One Year Since Reinstatement, Global Gag Rule Has Devastating Impact on Women’s Health and Human Rights Worldwide

(PRESS RELEASE) One year ago today, as one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump imposed a sweeping policy restricting access to safe abortion services for women worldwide. Trump’s Global Gag Rule – which was further expanded in May 2017 – dictates that U.S.-supported international health care service groups abroad may no longer use their own money to provide safe and legal abortion services, or even provide information that refers to safe abortion as a “method of family planning,” at the risk of women’s health and lives. The current Global Gag Rule applies to a wide range of global health assistance provided by the U.S. government, impacting funds for contraception, safe motherhood, treatment of HIV/AIDS, Zika, Ebola and other infectious diseases.

This global ban applies even where women need access to safe abortion services to preserve their health and well-being; the only narrow exceptions to the rule are for women who have been raped, who are survivors of incest, or who face a life-threatening pregnancy. Trump’s Global Gag Rule restricts virtually all global health assistance provided by the U.S. federal government, including from the Department of State, USAID, and the Department of Defense, impacting $8.8 billion in financial support for global health programs. By inhibiting access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and information, and by barring advocacy on abortion law reform, the Global Gage Rule ultimately undermines fundamental human rights to life, health, equality, information, privacy and expression.

Said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The Global Gag Rule is a senseless assault on women’s reproductive health and rights worldwide, and is designed to censure and silence advocates. The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to fight back against this discriminatory policy to ensure the world’s poorest and most vulnerable women are able to access the care they need.” 

In response to President Trump reinstating – and expanding – the Global Gag Rule, the Center for Reproductive Rights created a Global Gag Rule Pro Bono Clearinghouse, comprised of global law firms with relevant expertise to provide free legal representation to NGOs affected by the Global Gag Rule.

Previous iterations of Trump’s Global Gag Rule have been associated with an increase in abortion rates as organizations that provide access to family planning services lose funding, a 2011 study conducted by Stanford University researchers and published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization concluded. Another 2011 study of women in Ghana found that the abortion rate was higher in rural areas when the Global Gag Rule was in effect. A 2003 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights concluded that the Global Gag Rule also “helps perpetuate unsafe abortion” in countries with restrictive abortion laws and limited access to safe abortion services.