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The Global Gag Rule: Reversing the harm

Without action, Trump's harmful policies will outlive his presidency.

When Donald Trump assumed the US presidency in January 2017, one of his first acts in office was the reintroduction of the Mexico City Policy (Global Gag Rule), a decision that undid years of global progress on reproductive rights, causing untold pain to millions of women and limiting their opportunities for the future.

MSI has never and will never sign the Global Gag Rule and in 2017, this meant we were unable to access USAID funding. For many of our programmes, in Uganda, Madagascar and Nepal, to name but a few, this led to service closures, recorded rise in unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions and a broader chilling effect, impacting partnerships and advocacy for women’s healthcare.

We cannot be complacent

As President Biden and his administration took office, we called on the US government and the global community to ensure the impact of Trump’s policy doesn’t outlive his presidency. The first step was made on January 28, by repealing the Global Gag Rule to protect access to reproductive healthcare.

But even though the Global Gag Rule is repealed, the effects will continue to reverberate long past this. It will take time to re-open closed programs, re-forge partnerships, and get services up and running. And while we hope to once again partner with USAID in the future, it could be months or longer before any funding is restored. In the meantime, we face a serious funding gap. 

For 2021 alone, MSI faces a £10 million shortfall, worsened by the long-term impact of Trump’s expanded Global Gag Rule. In real terms, this is the equivalent of 650,000 reproductive healthcare services delivered by our mobile outreach teams, primarily for rural and low-income women with no alternative access. 

Today, we urgently need everyone who believes in a woman’s right to choose to act now and ensure Trump's harmful policies don't outlive his presidency.

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How did Trump’s Gag Rule impact MSI?

MSI has never – and will never – sign the Global Gag Rule. So for us, Trump’s reintroduction of the policy meant a loss of USD $30 million a year: funding that had previously supported us to reach an estimated 2 million women with information and voluntary family planning services annually.

An MSI Lady getting the word out in the community of Kharumwa, Tanzania

Trump is out, it is time to rebuild.

Here we share our suggestions on what the US government and global community can do to protect reproductive access and ensure Trump's policies don't outlive his presidency.

Trump is out. Let’s build back reproductive healthcare together.

The impact of the Global Gag Rule on frontline services

In this briefing, we collate the evidence on how the Global Gag Rule has affected policy, partnerships, provision and access across MSI’s programmes.

The Impact of the Global Gag Rule on Frontline Reproductive Healthcare

The women who defied Trump

Despite the devastating threat the Global Gag Rule posed, it also inspired a generation of women working in family planning to stand stronger than ever for those who depend on them.

Meet the women who defied Trump’s Global Gag Rule

What is the Global Gag Rule

First enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, the Global Gag Rule (officially known as the Mexico City Policy) prohibits international organisations that provide or promote abortion services – regardless of how those services are funded – from receiving US Government funding.  

It prevents USAID from partnering with organisations that deliver comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, depriving women of their right to make choices about their own fertility, but in many cases their access to primary healthcare. 

American citizens are told that the GGR prevents their taxes from being spent on abortion, however this is already prohibited under the 1973 Helms Amendment. By excluding reproductive healthcare organisations from U.S. funding, and preventing referrals to safe abortion providers, data shows that the GGR leads to higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal deaths. 

The 'chilling effect'

The impact of the Global Gag Rule is far reaching and has produced a 'chilling effect' that can still be felt all over the world. In communities where family planning services and conversations are already difficult and stigmatized, the Global Gag Rule further reinforced negative attitudes, and made it difficult for organisations like ours to create a culture of acceptance around women’s reproductive choice. This 'chilling effect' has been just as harmful to women's health and lives as funding losses and programme closures.

Even when the Global Gag Rule has been rescinded, these effects will not disappear overnight. It will take time to repair the damage done by four years of the policy, but we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work. And we need your support to continue to protect services put at risk by the Global Gag Rule.

Today, we urgently need everyone who believes in a woman’s right to choose to act now and ensure Trump's harmful policies don't outlive his presidency.

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Without action, Trump's harmful policies will outlive his presidency.

Trump may be gone from the White House, but the effects of his policies live on. Today, we urgently need your support to protect women and the services put at risk.