What exactly is the global gag rule? If the details around this new executive order seem confusing, they are. And that’s in large part because The White House seems to have gotten those details pretty confused.
Yesterday, Donald Trump signed and expanded an executive order called the Mexico City policy (also known as the global gag rule). The Mexico City policy was signed in 1984 by Ronald Raegan, and originally served as a way to stop the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from giving funding to international, nongovernmental organizations who use non-USAID funding to conduct family planning programs that include abortion procedures.
In other words, although the money donated by USAID was not going towards the direct funding abortions, the Mexico City policy was preventing money from going to family planning NGOs that provide those services.
Confusingly, in a briefing from the White House yesterday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer stated that the Mexico City policy would in fact, “end the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions overseas, along with coercive abortion and sterilization practices.”
The problem with Spicer’s statement, is that tax payer dollars do not fund abortions overseas and they haven’t since 1973.
The Helms Act, which was put into action a full eleven years before the Mexico City policy was signed by executive order, prevents any U.S. funding from going towards the funding of abortions abroad. President Reagan’s intent regarding the Mexico City policy was to take this one step further, and prevent any money from going to any USAID affiliated family planning institution that carries out abortion procedures, essentially cutting those institutions off from funds that would be used for other, non abortion healthcare services, including prenatal health screenings, check ups, etc.
It goes without saying that between the Helms Act and the Mexico City policy, there have been huge consequences on women’s health, most notably in relation to the reproductive rights and health of rape victims in war zones.
Trump’s plan however, has expanded how far reaching this policy would be. Under the broadened agenda of the newly signed Mexico City policy, any health organization that supports abortion services (including discussing abortion as an option) will not receive funding from the U.S.
As Politico reports, “In the past, the policy only applied to organizations that got family planning funding. Now, it will apply to organizations that get global health money, potentially including maternal health programs, anti-Zika efforts and the expansive PEPFAR program to stop HIV/AIDS.”
This puts global health organizations benefiting from the over 10 billion dollars in annual U.S. global health funding in a perilous situation – adopt an anti-abortion agenda, or potentially risk the health of tens of thousands of people who are at risk of preventable or treatable diseases like HIV/AIDs.
The global gag rule was signed two days after the record breaking Women’s March on Washington and one day after the 44th anniversary of Roe. v. Wade. Bill Clinton was the first president to overturn the Mexico City policy through an executive order when he took office in 1993, deeming the policy too broad and far reaching. The three presidents following Clinton – Bush, Obama, and now Trump – have all overturned their predecessors executive orders either on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, or the day after.
Isn’t is just great when women’s bodies are used as political collateral?