COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS UPDATES:
We're closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and our priority is continuing to deliver care to the women who need us. Click here to read more.

Choose a country

Latin America
North America
West Asia and Middle East

Contact details

Find country

The Global Gag Rule: A world without choice

The Mexico City Policy or 'Global Gag Rule'

In January 2017, the then newly appointed US administration re-introduced a Republican policy that blocks Government funding to non-US organisations that perform abortion with their own funding. Since its introduction, the Global Gag Rule – also known as the Mexico City Policy – has put millions of women’s life at risk by refusing to recognise the importance of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. The policy negatively impacts women’s health and their opportunities for the future, but also the longer-term economic prospects and stability of the world’s poorest countries.

At MSI, we strongly believe that safe abortion is a vital component of women’s reproductive healthcare and therefore did not agree to the conditions of the Global Gag Rule. As a result, we had to stop our partnership with USAID to provide contraceptive services to women around the world for as long as the policy is in place.

Read about our position

Read about the impact

What is the Global Gag Rule?

First enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, the Global Gag Rule prevents USAID from partnering with organisations that deliver comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, often in places where no other services exist. This decision does not only deprive women of their right to make choices about their own fertility, but in many cases their access to primary healthcare.

The Global Gag Rule is a US Executive Order that means any international organisation that provides or promotes abortion services – regardless of how those services are funded – is prohibited from receiving US Government funding.

 

The re-introduction of the Global Gag Rule will negatively impact not just women’s health and their opportunities for the future, but the longer-term economic prospects and stability of the world’s poorest countries.

On 23rd January 2017, the policy was re-enacted by President Trump as one of his first acts in office... The loss of funding has been most keenly felt in the organisation’s work with poor and marginalised communities, who often have no other way of accessing contraception.

The scale of the issue

Since 2009, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has made a significant investment in projects that expand access to voluntary contraception for women and girls in developing countries. At the time of the re-introduction of the Global Gag Rule, USAID was the world’s largest bilateral donor in family planning, investing approximately $620 million a year in family planning services.

There are long-standing legislative restrictions in place to ensure that USAID does not ever fund abortion services. However, before the Global Gag Rule was re-enacted, USAID was able to fund family planning programmes with organisations like MSI, which provide safe abortion services using funding from other donors. It is these organisations that will be affected by the policy.

On 23rd January 2017, the policy was re-enacted and dramatically expanded by President Trump as one of his first acts in office, impacting all US global health funding, even for programmes not related to family planning. At the time of re-enactment, USAID funding equated to 17% of MSI’s donor income.

MSI's position

At MSI, we strongly believe that safe abortion is a vital component of women’s reproductive healthcare, and that every woman has the right to choose whether and when to have children.

Before the Global Gag Rule was re-introduced, we received USAID funding exclusively for voluntary contraception services. Agreeing to the conditions of the Global Gag Rule would have restricted us from providing abortion services using other funding, in countries where they are permitted. It would even restrict us from talking to women about abortion. This goes against our core principles as an organisation, and therefore we did not agree to the conditions of the Global Gag Rule.

This means we are unable to partner with USAID to provide contraceptive services for as long as the policy is in place.

Every year 25 million women are so desperate to end their pregnancy they put their lives on the line by risking an unsafe abortion... Agreeing to the Mexico City Policy would be accepting their fate and turning our backs on the very women who need us most.
Marjorie Newman-Williams

Women and girls will pay the price

The loss of funding has been most keenly felt in the organisation’s work with poor and marginalised communities, who often have no other way of accessing contraception.

Women and girls who lack access to a choice of family planning methods are less likely to complete their education, have a career, or be able to pursue their plans and dreams for the future. They are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, and more likely to risk death and disability by undergoing an unsafe abortion. A reduction of funding for comprehensive, voluntary contraception services will negatively impact not just women’s health but their opportunities for the future.

Thanks to the generous support of other donor governments and foundations, MSI has been able to secure replacement funding to keep most services running in the short term. However, the funding gap has not been filled and is hitting our work with the poorest, most marginalized communities the hardest – those women and girls without any other way to access contraception.

The countries most directly affected by the funding gap created by the Global Gag Rule include:

  • Madagascar: Where our voucher programme, providing contraception to women and adolescents living in poverty, was forced to close. This programme delivered more than 170,000 free services to women and girls who could not otherwise afford it. 
  • Uganda: Where five outreach teams with health workers travelling for weeks at a time to provide contraceptive care to remote communities, were forced to close.
  • Zimbabwe: Where the number of outreach sites we visit were reduced in half from 1,200 to only 600.

The 'chilling effect'

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

You can support our campaign - #SmashAbortionStigma - and raise your voice to counteract the detrimental impact the Global Gag Rule has around the world. 

The impact of the Global Gag Rule will be catastrophic and it is women in developing countries who will pay the price.
Unsafe abortion remains a major contributing factor to maternal deaths across the developing world. Every year, up to 22,800 women die worldwide from complications of unsafe procedures.

A counter-productive policy

As a policy that seeks to reduce the number of abortions, the Global Gag Rule is counterproductive. By blocking funding to the world’s largest providers of modern contraception, women’s ability to prevent unplanned pregnancy will be reduced, and the number of women undergoing an abortion will actually increase.

In countries where access to safe abortion is restricted, women may risk death and disability by undergoing an unsafe procedure. These range from counterfeit drugs peddled by ‘quack doctors’ to industrial poisons or wire coat hangers. Unsafe abortion remains a major contributing factor to maternal deaths across the developing world. Every year, 22,800 women die worldwide from complications of unsafe procedures.

More broadly, the re-enactment of the Global Gag Rule will hinder USAID’s objectives to end extreme poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realise their potential. Countries where women lack access to contraception have slower economic and social development than those where access is guaranteed.

Meet the women defying Trump’s Global Gag Rule

When President Trump re-enacted the Global Gag Rule in January 2017, the intention was to cut off pro-choice organisations like Marie Stopes International at the knees.

Annie Ramasy

Annie Ramasy travels for up to six hours every day to provide family planning services to women in rural, isolated communities in Madagascar.

Kudzai’s story

Kudzai Mujuru has always dreamed of becoming a nurse. When she fell pregnant aged 17, she was forced to put those dreams on hold.

Seeking new partnerships

At MSI, we strongly believe that no woman, once she has benefited from contraception, should ever be denied it again. Following the re-enactment of the Global Gag Rule, we are seeking new partnerships with others who share our vision.

To find out more about partnering with MSI, please contact Layla Shaaban - our Director of Programme, Design and Development - for an initial discussion about our work, and the different ways you can work with us as a donor.

Trust women and their choices.

Help us achieve a world where everyone can access the contraceptive and safe abortion services they want.

Stay up to date with our progress

Please select what emails you'd like to receive:

By clicking 'subscribe to our emails' you are accepting the terms and conditions of our privacy policyand consent to receive email updates from MSI. We will not sell your data, and promise to keep your information safe. Find out more in our supporter promise.

Error! {{err}}

Success! You have successfully joined the {{successMessage}}