Global Gag Rule Two Years In: What Are We Seeing?


The global gag rule, also known as the ‘Mexico City Policy,’ is a U.S. foreign policy that prohibits non-U.S., non-governmental organizations from using their own private funds to provide comprehensive abortion care, counseling for abortion, referral for abortion, or organizing/lobbying/conducting public campaigns in support of abortion on the condition of receiving global health funding. The rule has appeared under previous Republican administrations, but under the current administration it has been vastly expanded. Two years in to the expanded global gag rule, there are a plethora of negative effects. Vanessa Rios from the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and Jade Maina from TICAH talk to us about IWHC’s new report and why the global gag rule must go.

The global gag rule doesn’t only impact funding for sexual and reproductive health, but 9 billion U.S. dollars of global health funding as a whole. This means that funding for malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and maternal and child health are streams of funding that are being negatively affected by this policy. IWHC’s report during the first year of the expanded global gag rule focused on unanswered questions and concerns during the primary roll-out of the rule. Organizations impacted by the rule experienced a ‘chilling effect’ and stopped offering services out of uncertainty. Now in the second year, those fears, unanswered questions, and concerns are becoming a reality.

The policy has clearly affected access to reproductive health services by fragmenting the care that clinics can provide, and is leading to the deaths of women and girls. In Kenya, research shows that 35 women die from unsafe abortions every month, and unsafe abortions are completely preventable through the use of contraception and implementation of comprehensive sex education. When access to safe abortion care is out of reach, many turn to clandestine options. The policy also continues to marginalize those that are on the fringe of health services, and puts a lot of pressure on services that are low-cost or free.

IWHC’s documentation project takes place on Nepal, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. The data presented comes from more than 170 interviews with civil society organizations over the two years of the implementation of the expanded global gag rule. IWHC has found that the policy is extremely harmful to women and girls and marginalized populations, depriving them of essential health services and information on a whole array of health services.

Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik

Links from this episode

IWHC on Twitter
IWHC on Facebook
RePROs Fight Back Global Gag Rule Episode
IWHC’s Report- Crisis in Care
Guardian Article on the impact of the GGR
Aljazeera article on the impact of the GGR
Independent article on the impact of the GGR
Lancet study on increase of abortions during the Bush Global Gag Rule
 Information on the Global HER Act

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