Millions of women in the developing world are likely to lose access to modern contraception, as a result of the re-introduction of a Republican policy in January 2017, that blocks US Government funding to non-US organisations that perform abortion with their own funding. This negatively impacts not just women’s health and their opportunities for the future, but the longer-term economic prospects and stability of the world’s poorest countries.
The Global Gag Rule prevents USAID from partnering with organisations that deliver comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, often in places where no other services exist. This decision does not only deprive women of their right to have children by choice, not chance, but in many cases their access to primary healthcare.
The Global Gag Rule is a US Executive Order that means any international organisation that provides or promotes abortion services – regardless of how those services are funded – is prohibited from receiving US Government funding.
The Global Gag Rule was first enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984. Since then, successive presidents have alternatively rescinded and re-enacted the policy. In January 2017, the incoming Republican administration re-enacted the Global Gag Rule.
The re-introduction of the Global Gag Rule will negatively impact not just women’s health and their opportunities for the future, but the longer-term economic prospects and stability of the world’s poorest countries.
On 23rd January 2017, the policy was re-enacted by President Trump as one of his first acts in office... The loss of funding has been most keenly felt in the organisation’s work with poor and marginalised communities, who often have no other way of accessing contraception.
Since 2009, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has made a significant investment in projects that expand access to voluntary contraception for women and girls in developing countries. At the time of the re-introduction of the Global Gag Rule, USAID was the world’s largest bilateral donor in family planning, investing approximately $620 million a year in family planning services.
There are long-standing legislative restrictions in place to ensure that USAID does not ever fund abortion services. However, before the Global Gag Rule was re-enacted, USAID was able to fund family planning programmes with organisations like Marie Stopes International, which provide safe abortion services using funding from other donors. It is these organisations that will be affected by the policy.
On 23rd January 2017, the policy was re-enacted by President Trump as one of his first acts in office. At that time, USAID funding equated to 17% of Marie Stopes International’s donor income. The loss of funding has been most keenly felt in the organisation’s work with poor and marginalised communities, who often have no other way of accessing contraception.
Thanks to the generous support of other donor governments and foundations, Marie Stopes International has been able to secure replacement funding to keep most services running in the short term. However, as of January 2019 we are facing a funding gap of $50 million (£37m) through to 2020 as a direct result of the policy. This gap is hitting our work with the poorest, most marginalized communities the hardest – those women and girls without any other way to access contraception.
Marie Stopes International strongly believes that safe abortion is a vital component of women’s reproductive healthcare, and that every woman has the right to choose whether and when to have children.
Although we use USAID funding exclusively for voluntary contraception services, agreeing to the conditions of the Global Gag Rule would restrict us from providing abortion services using other funding, in countries where they are permitted. It would even restrict us from talking to women about abortion. This goes against our core principles as an organisation, and therefore we will not agree to the conditions of the Global Gag Rule.
This means Marie Stopes International will be unable to partner with USAID to provide contraceptive services for as long as the policy is in place.
Every year 25 million women are so desperate to end their pregnancy they put their lives on the line by risking an unsafe abortion... Agreeing to the Mexico City Policy would be accepting their fate and turning our backs on the very women who need us most.
Two years on from President Trump’s re-imposition of the Global Gag Rule, the loss of USAID funding has left Marie Stopes International with a funding gap of US$50m (£37m) that could have a devastating impact on millions of the world’s poorest for years to come.
Unless we can close this funding gap, we estimate that more than 1.4 million women will no longer have access to contraception services from a trained Marie Stopes International provider, leading to an extra:
As these figures relate to Marie Stopes International services only, the global impact of the Global Gag Rule will be even more pronounced.
Women and girls who lack access to a choice of family planning methods are less likely to complete their education, have a career, or be able to pursue their plans and dreams for the future. They are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, and more likely to risk death and disability by undergoing an unsafe abortion.
A reduction of funding for comprehensive, voluntary contraception services will negatively impact not just women’s health but their opportunities for the future.
fewer women will have access to contraception services
remaining funding gap
avoidable maternal deaths
A lack of access to family planning is a major contributing factor to maternal mortality in the developing world. Contraception supports women to:
Researchers have estimated that meeting unmet need for contraception in developing countries could reduce their maternal mortality rates by as much as one-third.
The impact of the Global Gag Rule will be catastrophic and it is women in developing countries who will pay the price.
Unsafe abortion remains a major contributing factor to maternal deaths across the developing world. Every year, up to 31,000 women die worldwide from complications of unsafe procedures.
As a policy that seeks to reduce the number of abortions, the Global Gag Rule is counterproductive. By blocking funding to the world’s largest providers of modern contraception, women’s ability to prevent unplanned pregnancy will be reduced, and the number of women undergoing an abortion will actually increase.
In countries where access to safe abortion is restricted, women may risk death and disability by undergoing an unsafe procedure. These range from counterfeit drugs peddled by ‘quack doctors’ to industrial poisons or wire coat hangers. Unsafe abortion remains a major contributing factor to maternal deaths across the developing world. Every year, up to 31,000 women die worldwide from complications of unsafe procedures.
More broadly, the re-enactment of the Global Gag Rule will hinder USAID’s objectives to end extreme poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realise their potential. Countries where women lack access to contraception have slower economic and social development than those where access is guaranteed.
Access to contraception is an essential foundation for development. The Copenhagen Consensus, a group of economists which rates development policies, has estimated that every $1 invested in universal access to contraception would save countries $120 in reduced need for infrastructure and social spending.
In 2015, the global community agreed a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by 2030.
Expanding access to contraception brings transformational benefits to women, families, communities and countries, and is an essential foundation to achieving progress across all the SDGs.
At Marie Stopes International, we strongly believe that no woman, once she has benefited from contraception, should ever be denied it again. Following the re-enactment of the Global Gag Rule, we are seeking new partnerships with others who share our vision.
To find out more about partnering with Marie Stopes International, please contact Layla Shaaban - our Director of Programme, Design and Development - for an initial discussion about our work, and the different ways you can work with us as a donor.