Trump’s Global Gag Rule and the War on Women’s Health

by Vins
Published: Updated:

In March, 2018, Michelle Chen reported for the Nation that President Trump’s January, 2017 reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy would impact the reproductive and family planning healthcare of 26 million women globally. This policy, commonly referred to as the Global Gag Rule, denies US funding from any international health organization that even mentions abortion as a possible service, regardless of the other services conducted by the organization, such as the provision of contraceptives or other reproductive healthcare.­

Enacted under the Reagan administration in 1984, the policy has been reinstated by every Republican administration since. As Skye Wheeler reported for Women’s E News, “In the past, the Global Gag Rule applied to family planning funds, an estimated $575 million. Trump’s expansion extends it to an estimated $8.8 billion in U.S. global health assistance, including more than $5 billion disbursed through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).” Because of the gag rule, which threatens a primary source of funding for health care provides, many organizations have been forced to reduce their services. For example, Reproductive Healthcare Network Kenya  lost almost two-thirds of its funding, and as a result have cut safe abortion training for their healthcare providers.

Although the policy ostensibly aims to reduce the number of abortions performed globally, one of the largest family planning partners of USAID, Marie Stopes International, estimates that the global gag rule will lead to an additional 2.2 million abortions worldwide.  In her Nation article, Michelle Chen quoted a report from Human Rights Watch: “Women and girls in about 60 low- and middle-income countries will have less access to contraception, resulting in more unintended pregnancies, and more—often unsafe—abortions, as well as ‘a rise in maternal death.’” Even more alarming is the fact that the services being defunded are often unrelated to abortion, such as vaccines for newborns and a large portion of the world’s HIV/AIDS treatments—both of which the Trump administration as also targeted.

FoxNews published an article on the ban in May, 2017; however, the Fox report did not emphasize any of the ban’s expected consequences.  Although the article nodded to the policy’s critics, it emphasized pro-life efforts and described the policy as “protecting life.” A few days after the Nation artile, CNN published an article that included much of the information reported by the Nation. However, the CNN report  omitted many of the details, facts, and studies mentioned in the Nation’s original story. The New York Times has covered the rule also, but mainly in the form of editorial and opinion pieces, rather than through front-page news coverage.


Michelle Chen, “Trump’s Abortion Gag Rule Is Hurting Reproductive Rights Around the Globe,” The Nation, March 6, 2018,

Becca Andrews, “Trump Reinstates Global Gag Rule to Cut Off Family Planning Funds Abroad,” Mother Jones, January 23, 2017,

Skye Wheeler, “Cruel Choices: How Trump’s Global Gag Rule Hurts the Fight Against HIV,” Women’s E News, December 7, 2017,

Student Researcher: Averi Davis (Syracuse University)

Faculty Evaluator: Jeff Simmons (Syracuse University)