The Trump administration has begun enforcing a new regulation preventing US taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. The administration’s alarming domestic policies are echoed in the Global Gag Rule, which cuts US funding to any organisation with a foreign partner that provides abortion counselling, referrals or services – even if those overseas groups are not, themselves, U.S. government-funded.
First implemented under Reagan in 1984, the Global Gag Rule has been repealed by every Democrat and reinstated by every Republican to occupy the Oval Office, reflecting how attitudes towards abortion are divided along party lines.
A recent study published in The Lancet found that the last time the Gag Rule was in effect from 1995-2014, abortion rates increased by 40% in sub-Saharan countries reliant on US aid. A similar study showed that women in Latin America were three times more likely to have an abortion while the Global Gag Rule was in effect. Many of these abortions were likely unsafe. Unsafe abortions account for up to 13% of maternal deaths globally.
In fact, under the latest version of the Global Gag Rule – which President Trump reinstated on his first day in office in January 2017 – over 1.4 million women and adolescent girls globally will lose access to MSI services by 2020. The loss of Marie Stopes International services alone will result in an estimated:
- 1.8 million unintended pregnancies
- 600,000 unsafe abortions
- 4,600 maternal deaths
“This important study proves that attempts to stop abortion through restrictive laws or punitive policies like the Global Gag Rule do not work because they do not eliminate women’s need for safe abortion care,” said Marjorie Newman-Williams, President of MSI United States. “This study adds rigorous evidence to what our providers see every day: The Global Gag Rule only serves to deny women access to contraception and safe abortion, stripping them of their ability to make choices about their own bodies, lives and futures.”
Newman-Williams said: “Women and girls pay the price for cruel policies like the Global Gag Rule: from the adolescent girl who could have prevented an unplanned pregnancy, so she could finish school, to the mother of five who could have avoided an unsafe, backstreet abortion.
This study adds new urgency to efforts that would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule. We owe it to women and girls around the world who have lost access to contraception and safe abortion, and control over their bodies, lives and futures. They deserve better than the Global Gag Rule.”