By Kimberly Truong | Refinery29 | January 23 2017
Update: On Wednesday, May 17, Women Deliver — a non-profit organization globally advocating for women's health — responded to the Trump administration's expansion of the global gag rule policy.
“How ironic that the Trump administration expanded the Global Gag Rule the day after Mother’s Day, and in the middle of Women’s Health Week,” Katja Iversen, president and CEO of Women Deliver, said in a statement shared with Refinery29. “It only serves to further highlight that this policy isn’t about protecting life – it's a clear killer and a crusade aimed at limiting women's ability to decide on their own lives and live their full potential."
"The Global Gag Rule will undermine gender equality and reverse years of development progress," the statement read. "We cannot afford to backtrack when the lives of girls and women hang in the balance."
Update: On Monday, May 15, the Trump administration expanded the global gag rule policy, according to The Guardian. The ban, which in previous administrations applied to $60 million in programming, will now apply to $8.8 billion of existing foreign aid provided by the state department, USAid, and the Department of Defense.
Continue to our original story below.
Just 48 hours after millions of women across the world marched to advocate for their health and rights, Donald Trump has signed off on the first abortion restriction policy of his term. President Trump has reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which would block federal aid to foreign organizations that provide abortions or even abortion counseling.
Under the policy, also known as the "global gag rule," organizations that receive any federal funding are not to use their own funds to pay for abortion-related programs. Though the 1977 Hyde Amendment already bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, the Mexico City Policy, which was introduced by President Reagan in 1984, goes a step further and blocks organizations from even providing advice or referrals for safe abortions, hence the name "global gag rule."
Since its introduction, U.S. presidents have each taken their stance on it — Bill Clinton repealed it, George W. Bush replaced it, and Barack Obama repealed it again.
Essentially, the policy forces organizations to choose between either accepting crucial federal funds and be prohibited from providing abortion services or counseling, or refusing the funds and finding alternative sources of funding to continue to provide a range of health services, including abortion-related programs.
Nicole Cheetham, director of the International Youth Health and Rights Division, tells Refinery29 that it can even result in these organizations shutting down altogether if they are unable to survive financially.
It's also predicted to actually drive up abortion rates. A study from Stanford University School of Medicine, published by the World Health Organization in 2011, found that abortion rates went up by 40% when the policy was last instated under President Bush. The study also estimated that women were twice as likely to have an unsafe abortion after the policy went into effect — something that accounts for about 13% of maternal deaths globally.
"This policy not only endangers the survival, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women by increasing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions." Katja Iversen, president and CEO of Women Deliver said in a statement. “It will also stop progress for girls and women in its tracks.”
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.
"We know that when family planning services and contraceptives are easily accessible, there are fewer unplanned pregnancies, maternal deaths, and abortions," she said in a statement. "And when women have control over their reproductive health, it improves the long-term health of mothers and children and creates a lasting economic benefit."
She added: "I will continue to stand up to President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress who are intent on rolling back women's access to reproductive healthcare, and will introduce bipartisan legislation to repeal the Global Gag Rule for good."