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House of Representatives votes to repeal Global Gag Rule - So what next?

Thursday 20 June 2019 Contraception, Opinion USA

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The US House of Representatives has voted to pass a spending package (H.R.2740) that would reverse the Trump administration’s harmful anti-choice policies, including a permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy).

So, what does this mean? We’ve pulled together a short explainer outlining where we are, what happens next, and why this is important.

 

Has the Global Gag Rule been repealed?

No, sadly the Gag Rule hasn’t been permanently, or even temporarily repealed. The House bill is an important first step but it’s just one step along the way to making a permanent repeal a reality.

What happens next?

The Democratic-controlled House spending package has to be reconciled with the Senate’s appropriations bills.

The Republican-controlled Senate has yet to release its fiscal year 2020 spending bills, but it’s unlikely that any of the House abortion provisions – including the Global Gag Rule repeal – would make it into the Senate versions.

What would need to happen for the Global Gag Rule to be repealed?

Ultimately, the House and Senate would have to include a permanent repeal in a final appropriations package – an unlikely scenario given that the Senate is controlled by the Republican Party.

This final appropriations package would then go to President Trump for signature to become law. Given that Trump not only reinstated by dramatically expanded the Gag Rule on his first working day in office, it’s also highly unlikely that he would support a permanent repeal.

Why is all this happening now?

The debate in Congress over women’s access to safe abortion is re-emerging as abortion surges to the forefront of the national conversation after several US states recently passed laws that ban virtually all abortions. Federal lawmakers are unlikely to have much influence on state-level bills, but they can use the federal budget to make their voices heard.

As Democratic House Member Rosa DeLauro said, “There is this lack of trust, respect for women, and it’s going to be an issue that we are going to continue to fight.”

What is the Global Gag Rule?

First imposed by President Reagan in 1984, the Global Gag Rule withholds US Government funding from any non US organisation that offers abortion services – or even information and referrals – with their own funds. The policy was later rescinded by President Clinton, reinstated by President George Bush, and rescinded again by President Obama.

In 2017, President Trump re-enacted and dramatically expanded the policy on his first day in office. At that time, the US Government was funding Marie Stopes International around $30 million per year - 17% of our donor income – for our work expanding access to contraception in the world’s poorest countries.

Does the Global Gag Rule block funding for abortion?

This is the great irony of the policy: no. Existing laws meant the US Government was not funding abortion care overseas, even before the Global Gag Rule was re-enacted.

Instead, the policy blocks funding for some of the world’s largest providers of contraception to low- and middle-income countries, placing women and girls at increased risk of unintended pregnancy, which in turn increases the abortion rate. So, a policy that claims to limit abortion has the opposite effect – including in countries with high rates of unsafe abortion. This causes direct harm to women.

How has the Global Gag Rule impacted Marie Stopes International's work?

Two years since President Trump dramatically expanded the Global Gag Rule, Marie Stopes International faces a funding gap of $50 million through to 2020 that will continue to have a devastating impact on the world’s most vulnerable women and girls. This gap has hit our work with poor and marginalised communities the hardest – those without any other way to access contraception, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The countries most directly affected so far by the withdrawal of US Government funding to MSI include:

  • Madagascar: Where our voucher program, delivering contraceptive counseling and care to women and adolescents living in poverty, was forced to close. This program delivered more than 170,000 free services to women and girls who could not afford care.
  • Uganda: Where five outreach teams - small teams of health workers who travel for weeks at a time to provide remote communities with contraceptive care - were forced to close.
  • Zimbabwe: Where we had to reduce by half the number of outreach sites we visit from 1,200 to 600.

How can I get involved?

The Global Gag Rule aimed to cut organisations like Marie Stopes International off at the knees because we stand firmly and unapologetically for women’s choice. Despite the loss of US Government funding, two years later we continue to stand strong for the women and girls who need us, thanks to a committed and passionate base of supporters who share our belief that every woman has the right to determine her own future.

Please join our mission by signing up for news and updates, supporting our work with a donation, or sharing this page on your social channels.

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The Global Gag Rule means millions in the developing world could lose access to contraception

We will not turn our back on those who need us most.