New report details the devastating impact of President Trump’s Global Gag Rule
Experts at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference discuss the impact of US funding restrictions and the need for data-driven programs and policies to increase access to safe abortion
Vancouver, Canada, 5 June 2019 – A new report released today at the Women Deliver 2019 Conference reveals that the Global Gag Rule is reducing the quality and availability of care, particularly for marginalized communities, in four countries studied. Advocates, researchers and implementing partners discussed the findings from the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) detailing the effects of the expanded US Global Gag Rule, as well as a new evidence-gathering initiative by several partner organizations designed to increase access to safe abortion.
Revived by the Trump Administration in 2017, the Global Gag Rule, or Mexico City Policy, restricts US global funding to any organization that advocates on abortion issues, provides abortions or refers patients to abortion services. Once limited to family planning programs, the expanded policy now applies to all $9 billion in US global health funding, including the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In March of this year, the US State Department announced an additional expansion of the restrictions, stating that the US would reduce its contribution to the autonomous Organization of American States.
“This deadly policy violates the rights of patients and ties the hands of providers,” said IWHC President Françoise Girard. “After two years of implementation, the impact is clear: The Global Gag Rule reduces access to contraceptives and abortion care, leading to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and preventable deaths."
Since implementation began two years ago, IWHC and grantee partners in Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, and South Africa have conducted more than 170 interviews with individuals affected by the policy. The interviews reveal the devastating impact of the policy in these countries.
In Kenya, an organization that serves young women and sex workers was forced to stop providing abortion information and referrals; two of the organization’s clients died after resorting to unsafe methods to terminate their pregnancies. In Nepal, which has a progressive abortion law, it has forced the early closure of a US-government supported project intended to increase access to contraceptives and other services in 11 remote districts. In South Africa, it has meant that a national sexuality education curriculum under development currently excludes any mention of abortion, even though the right to abortion is protected by the country’s constitution.
"The Global Gag Rule kills girls and women, plain and simple,” said Katja Iversen, President/CEO of Women Deliver. “We should be investing in girls and women, not investing in policies that threaten their lives. A woman’s ability to control her own body is foundational for her to reach her full potential. Expanding the reach of this harmful policy is wrong, dangerous, bad for gender equality, and bad for the world.”
Alongside the launch of this report, a cross-partner coalition, led by Marie Stopes International, Ipas, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Services International and the Safe Abortion Action Fund, have launched SafeAccess, the first digital platform of its kind, working to eliminate unsafe abortion by putting evidence-based guidance in the hands of frontline practitioners and policy makers.
A joint statement from the CEOs provided more background:
“Our aim is simple: to share evidence-based, best practice guidance for implementers and policy makers on quality safe abortion and post-abortion care programming. As implementing organisations, we share our own lessons on what works, with the hope that those on the frontline can use these learnings to expand access to life-saving services.”
Additional speakers included:
- Carole Sekimpi, Country Director, Marie Stopes Uganda
- Vanessa Rios, Program Officer, Learning, Monitoring, and Evaluation, International Women's Health Coalition
About Women Deliver: Women Deliver is a leading global advocate that champions gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women. Our advocacy drives investment – political and financial – in the lives of girls and women worldwide. We harness evidence and unite diverse voices to spark commitment to gender equality. And we get results. Anchored in sexual and reproductive health, we advocate for the rights of girls and women across every aspect of their lives. We know that investing in girls and women will deliver progress for all. And every three years, we galvanize momentum at the global Women Deliver Conference – our signature event. It’s a bold and diverse gathering, a fueling station of ideas, and generator of action, convening thousands of decision-makers from civil society, governments, the private sector, and international agencies alongside advocates, activists, and journalists to identify solutions and drive change for girls and women.