Rescinding the Global Gag Rule Isn’t Enough

Rescinding the Global Gag Rule Isn’t Enough

If U.S. President-elect Joe Biden wants to champion gender equality and reproductive rights, he can’t just roll back Trump-era policies.

Over the past four years, outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump has abandoned even the pretense of a foreign policy grounded in respect for women’s rights and reproductive rights. Perhaps the clearest example was Trump’s unprecedented expansion of the global gag rule, or the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy (formerly known as the Mexico City policy). The global gag rule blocks U.S. funding for foreign organizations that provide any services, referrals, or even information for legal abortions, or that advocate for changes to abortion laws in their country. First implemented by the Reagan administration in 1984, the policy has been enforced during all subsequent Republican administrations. Before Trump reinstated it, it applied only to family planning funding. But since 2017, it has been extended to all global health funding.

Today, the gag rule places restrictions on $8 billion of U.S. global health funding, and it’s had grave consequences for women worldwide: As a direct result of the policy’s design to cut funding to healthcare providers, it has led to more maternal deaths and unsafe abortions, a rise in HIV and AIDS, and the breakdown of civil society coalitions and partnerships, such as Marie Stopes International, that provide reproductive healthcare in poor and rural regions worldwide.

On his first day in office, President-elect Joe Biden is expected to rescind the global gag rule in the tradition of Democratic presidents before him. Biden has also pledged to immediately restore U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund, the main U.N. agency concerned with sexual and reproductive health, which Trump defunded in 2017. In short, Biden’s goal is to roll back many of the Trump-era initiatives that have violated human rights—and especially women’s rights—both at home and abroad.