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  • Dr. Lady Doctor

What is the "Global Gag Rule" and why should you care?

Photo credit: K Culwell, 2013. Family Planning counselor in Ethiopia.

The Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, and now by the new ironic name, "Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance" has been been in and out of effect since it was first signed by Ronald Reagan in 1984. Each Democratic president repeals it and each Republican president re-instates it. The rule prevents any US-government global health funds (previously limited only to family planning funding but now expanded by President Trump to all US global health funds) from going to international organizations that provide abortions, refer women for abortions, educate women about abortion or advocate for or against abortion even with their own funds or other sources of funding and regardless of the legal status of abortion in the countries where they work. US government funding is already barred from being used for provision of abortion services by the Helms Amendment so the only thing the Gag Rule does is reduce funding to organizations that help the most vulnerable men and women around the world, including decreasing access to contraception (the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancy) and now decreasing provision of other health services such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis or emerging public health threats such as Zika and Ebola.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) will refuse to sign the Global Gag Rule and will therefore lose all US government funding for its operations in over 170 countries. IPPF estimates this lost funding could have prevented 20,000 maternal deaths, 4.8 million unintended pregnancies and 1.7 million unsafe abortions - and this is only one of the organizations that are affected. For more detail on the impact of the Gag Rule and why it matters, here are two great articles from The Guardian and Yahoo News.

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