Reproductive Health Funding: Trump’s Global Gag Rule Takes Shape

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

The Global Gag Rule (GGR), reinstated by President Trump after his inauguration, is back in the news. Secretary of State Tillerson announced a plan for U.S. Government Departments and Agencies to apply the provisions of the policy to grants, agreements, and contracts with foreign NGOs that receive U.S. funding for global health assistance. This applies to the $8.8 billion in funds appropriated to USAID and the Departments of State and Defense.

The Global Gag Rule, a staple of Republican policy since Ronald Reagan, had been used previously to block overseas reproductive health NGOs from receiving US government family planning assistance if they used funding from any source to perform abortion, or if they provided abortion counseling and referral, and/or advocated for fewer restrictions on abortion.  Since the 1973 Helms Amendment already prohibited the use of US assistance for abortion, the GGR’s main purpose was to cut off US funds to programs that counsel, refer, and advocate for these vital services, constituting the intended “gag” component.

Ironically, on inauguration day this past January 20th, millions around the world marched in opposition to Trump’s widely anticipated anti women’s rights policies, but more broadly to protest his open contempt for women expressed in word and deed. As if in response, Trump issued his January 23 memorandum reinstating the GGR, rescinded by President Obama in 2009. Obama went truly global, extending the policy beyond official family planning assistance to “all global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies,” directing the Secretaries of State and Health & Human Services to extend the requirements of the memorandum.

The case against the GGR is strong. As argued by the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, “U.S. foreign aid should never be used as a tool to limit women’s access to health care or to censor free speech. Organizations should not be disqualified from receiving U.S. assistance because they use their own funds to provide health services and information that are legal in their home country and in the U.S. Supporters of global health and development, women’s rights, gender equality and free speech oppose the harmful global gag rule and reject efforts to undermine the health and rights of women around the world.”

How will this Gag Rule affect your organization? Would increasing private philanthropy help you survive this news? Please let us know on our blog.

A long time LAPA colleague, Dr. Pierre M. LaRamée, has more than 30 years’ experience in NGO programming and administration with overlapping expertise in academic research, policy analysis/advocacy, strategic communications/publishing and resource development.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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