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President Trump Reinstates and Expands the Global Gag Rule

President Trump Reinstates and Expands the Global Gag Rule

signs held in front of Supreme Court saying "Keep abortion legal"

On January 23, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order reinstating the global gag rule, formally known as the Mexico City Policy. This policy was established by the Reagan Administration in 1984 and blocks all U.S. foreign aid to international family planning agencies that provide abortions or even mention abortion as an option for clients seeking health care.

As presidents have taken office, the global gag rule has been rescinded or reinstituted: Presidents Clinton and Obama revoked the policy just days after beginning their terms, while Presidents George W. Bush and Trump reinstated the rule. These policy changes have led to inconsistent support and funding to NGOs from the U.S. on reproductive health issues.

While the changes in the Mexico City Policy were to be in some ways anticipated, the new version of the rule extends the requirements of the policy to “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies,” broadening the reach to affect more than just family planning agencies. U.S. Global Health Programs send assistance to about 60 low and middle income countries through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, and the Peace Corps, among other agencies.

These agencies provide assistance to foreign NGOs for HIV/AIDS, family planning and reproductive health, maternal and child health care, tuberculosis, malaria, emerging pandemic threats, nutrition, water sanitation, and other public health threats. Per the executive order, the NGOs receiving such assistance will be required to sign the global gag rule, agreeing not to provide information about abortion, refer to health care providers who provide abortions, advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country, or provide legal abortions or related services, or risk losing funding.

The global gag rule was already a harmful policy, but President Trump’s version increases the scope of the rule, with the potential to prohibit NGOs from providing contraceptive, sexual, and reproductive health services and HIV preventative care across the world, in countries that depend on it the most.

The Reform Movement has long taken the position that a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and to have safe, legal and affordable access to health care are crucial to her equality and self-determination. As our tradition teaches women to care for their own health and well-being above all else, we must continue to fight to ensure health care services for women across the globe.

To learn more about reproductive rights, visit our issue page.

Maya H. Weinstein is a law student at the University of North Carolina, where she is pursuing a career in education law. She was a 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she also served as the Legislative Assistant for Women of Reform Judaism. Maya is from Fort Myers, FL, and earned her B.A. from the George Washington University. 

Maya H. Weinstein