Trump issues first guidelines on 'global gag rule' implementation

By Amy Lieberman 03 March 2017
Women in Antananarivo, Madagascar listen to a presentation on family planning options from a mobile clinic. Photo by: A.G. Klei / USAID

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has issued the first official guidance for implementation of the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “global gag rule.”

The roll-out of the standard provisions, issued Friday, stipulates that any non-U.S. NGO “will not furnish any assistance for family planning” in USAID-recipient countries, or support other organizations that do so. The document also details steps NGOs must take to certify their acceptance of this deal and the consequences — likely termination of U.S. funding — that can result from violating the order.

These provisions effectively make the global gag rule operational for family planning awards under USAID, according to the reproductive health care group PAI. That means that any organization offering legal abortion services — or any information about abortions — will have to choose between this work and often vital U.S. funds.

Trump reinstated the rule at the the end of January. The measure, which restricts U.S. aid to foreign NGOs that offer family planning assistance, has been popular with Republican presidents since Ronald Reagan, who first implemented the order.

But Trump’s version also targeted all global health assistance. However, the standards issued on Friday so far only touch on family planning, and they are actually identical to the guidance issued in 2001 by President George W. Bush, as PAI noted.

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“In the Trump-Pence administration’s haste to place women in the first line of fire of a grotesque and deadly policy, today’s piecemeal and incomplete guidance will generate disorder and inefficiency among both U.S. and foreign NGOs,” Jonathan Rucks, director of advocacy at PAI, said in a media release.

“It’s hard to overstate how severely the Global Gag Rule will damage local health systems and undercut the work of our foreign NGO partners who provide vital health services to communities. Singling out family planning assistance from the rest of global health assistance will magnify the Global Gag Rule’s dangerous chilling effect and broaden the burden and harm to integrated health efforts,” Rucks added.

This past week at a conference in Brussels, several national governments, foundations and others pledged about $190 million to support a new fund called She Decides, which aims to counteract the effects of the global gag rule.

Stay tuned to Devex for more news and analysis of what the Trump administration means for global development. Read more coverage here and subscribe to The Development Newswire.