‘Global Gag Rule’ Continues to Compromise Women’s Health around the World

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

The United States’ global gag rule, continues to put people in less developed countries that rely on US aid at risk of sexual health issues. This federal rule—also known as the Mexico City Policy—blocks US federal funding for non-government organizations (NGOs) that provide abortion counseling, referrals, or any kind of abortion services around the world. The Trump-Pence administration reinstated and drastically expanded the global gag rule in March of 2017, just days after the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and sites around the world. Three years after the new guidelines were implemented, women are still being impacted, Rewire.News and other independent news outlets reported.

This policy was first implemented by the Reagan administration in 1984. It has continuously changed from presidency to presidency, but the Trump administration has advanced the strictest policies yet seen. The rule forces organizations to choose between receiving global health assistance from the US or providing comprehensive reproductive care. The Trump-Pence administration expanded the policy’s scope to go beyond abortion services and family planning care, to include other forms of assistance from the State Department, USAID, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Defense. Now the wording of the policy would, according to the Rewire.News report, “deny funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, nutrition, maternal health, family planning, and malaria.”

As a result of these changes, fifteen times more US funding for international health programs is now subject to restrictions, , and many organizations that do not even specialize in abortion or family planning are being impacted.

According to Sierra Club, “One study, published in the Lancet, followed three-quarters of a million women in 26 countries over 20 years and found that during previous impositions of the rule, abortions rose by 40 percent in the most affected regions.” British-based NGO, Marie Stopes International, which works in 37 countries around the world to provide contraception and safe abortion, suffered a huge funding gap for continuing to provide abortion services. This cut in finances will lead to 1.8 million unintended pregnancies, 600,000 unsafe abortions, and 4,600 avoidable maternal deaths. So, while the global gag rule continues to disadvantage less developed countries relying on US aid, it has already done substantial damage to feminine health.

The global gag rule has received very limited corporate media coverage. The New York Times has published a plethora of opinion articles from 2001 to 2019 on the policy. The articles, however, cover the politics of the situation without necessarily helping readers to understand the impact that the policy’s impacts on global health organizations, and by extension, women all around the world. While this policy has in fact increased abortion rates, despite the ostensive political intensions behind it, there has also been an impact on nearly all maternal and sexual health issues. The Washington Post covered the story in 2017, but without much detail concerning what impact the policy would have on groups like Marie Stopes International.


Monica Kerrigan and Nelly Munyasia, “Three Years Later, Trump’s ‘Global Gag Rule’ Continues to Devastate Global Health,” Rewire.News, January 23, 2020, https://rewire.news/article/2020/01/23/three-years-later-trumps-global-gag-rule-continues-to-devastate-global-health/.

Karen J. Coates, “The Global Gag Rule Puts a Choke Hold on Contraception,” Sierra Club, October 30, 2019, https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2019-6-november-december/protect/global-gag-rule-puts-choke-hold-contraception.

Student Researcher: Madison Miller (North Central College)

Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)