Trump’s Global Gag Rule: A Call To Action And A Way Forward

02/10/2017 10:11 am ET Updated Feb 13, 2017

On January 23rd, President Trump moved to drastically restrict access to contraception and other life-saving reproductive health services and supplies by imposing the Global Gag Rule. Trump's Global Gag Rule massively expands an already harmful policy, applying it to all U.S. global health assistance. It potentially implicates up to 15 times more funding and the lives of millions more women and their families around the world. With so much at stake, it is now more critical than ever for donors, civil society and service providers to work together. That is why PAI is proud to stand with former heads of state, leading activists, more than 300 parliamentarians and almost 450 global health nongovernmental organizations from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia to speak out against Trump’s Global Gag Rule and to use our collective strength to chart a way forward.

PAI has documented the effects of the Global Gag Rule under previous Republican administrations. The policy caused cuts in services, increases in fees and closures of clinics. In many instances, the policy shuttered the only providers in remote and economically disadvantaged communities. The result for women and their families? Increases in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal and newborn deaths.

Trump’s Global Gag Rule will magnify these tragic consequences—and will have other global health effects that we cannot yet begin to estimate. The policy is unprecedented in its scope, not only because of the U.S.’s leadership and investment in global health over the past decade, but also because of the greater alignment and integration among the global health and development sectors. It is a policy stunning in its short-sightedness and callous in how it targets the most vulnerable.

Moments of crisis can bring about great change, however. Now is the time for us all to step forward and fulfill our promises to women. Even before Trump’s Global Gag Rule, global development assistance for health was facing five years of stagnant growth. This has been exacerbated by a growing contraceptive supplies crisis. Additionally, while governments in the global South have made great strides in funding their own family planning programs, much more effort is needed around domestic resource mobilization. Despite growing political will, government funding for family planning meets only a small fraction of total funding required in the neediest countries.

Whether in Ghana, Norway, Nepal or the United States, there is a role for all of us to play.

At the country level, collaboration will be critical to make the case for investments in health at all levels, but especially in sexual and reproductive health. Our first duty will be to mitigate the impact of the Global Gag Rule with whatever resources we can mobilize, with whatever ingenuity and skills we can inject. We must be ready to ask the right questions, to collect data, and to lift up the evidence and stories that make an undeniable case for sustained and increased funding; for a permanent repeal of harmful domestic and donor policies like the Global Gag Rule; and continued momentum around the sustainable development goals.

We call on leaders around the world to join us in the fight to continue advancing the sexual and reproductive rights of girls and women, and the health and rights of all people.

This is no time for playing politics with lives already too close to the margins. Women around the world are counting on us. Let us ensure we keep our promises to them.

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