Editorial Excerpts
September 2017

The “Mexico City Policy,” labeled by critics as the “Global Gag Rule,” will now also be known as “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.” That is an incongruous name for a policy likely to result in at least tens of thousands more deaths.

Under previous Republican presidents, the Mexico City Policy, which withholds U.S. funding from foreign organizations that provide or promote abortion, applied only to the approximately $600 million the United States furnishes annually in family-planning funding. President Trump’s version affects almost all global health assistance — a full $8.8 billion.

The consequences will be catastrophic. Studies show that when the rule was last in place, under Mr. Bush, in many countries it resulted in more unintended pregnancies and abortions, not fewer.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation[1] in January that would permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy. The bill, which has only two Republican co-sponsors (both women) among a slew of Democratic supporters, seems unlikely to gain traction. But perhaps it could spark other action in Congress to counter the damage Mr. Trump’s policy is sure to do. For years, the United States has led the way in building a healthier world. It is up to lawmakers to stop the president from reversing that progress.

– May 16, 2017

It is not surprising but it is deeply depressing that the Trump administration is reviving the “Global Gag Rule” — so called because it bans U.S. financial assistance to non-governmental healthcare organizations in foreign countries if they provide abortions or even utter the word to their patients in counseling them or referring them elsewhere.

The rule was bad enough in its earlier form, when it barred aid to family planning organizations that offered abortion or abortion counseling.

But the new Trump administration incarnation of the rule is far more expansive. Instead of applying specifically to family planing programs, it will now cover approximately $8.8 billion in funds given out to healthcare providers of all sorts through the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense.

For healthcare organizations to stop providing abortions would be neither easy nor the right thing to do. In many places, one clinic serves multiple functions — taking care of women and children, treating HIV, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, offering family planning and contraceptives, and sometimes abortions or abortion counseling — all extremely important functions.

So providers are faced with a horrible choice: either refuse to provide patients with necessary information or important reproductive rights services or sacrifice desperately needed funding from the U.S.

The Global Gag Rule will hamper the delivery of desperately needed healthcare in the developing world. If the administration truly cares about protecting life, it should scrap this policy immediately.

– May 22, 2017

 

[1]   The Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act (S. 210/H.R. 617)

 

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