Yesterday, Thursday 25th May we staged a protest against President Trump’s expanded Global Gag Rule. We held this protest in solidarity with US activists who were protesting on the same day outside Trump Tower in New York.
“Expanding the global gag rule to include PEPFAR will reduce the standard of sexual and reproductive care provided to women living with and at risk for HIV and risks undoing years of progress on women’s health in PEPFAR countries,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of the Health Global Access Project (Health GAP) in the US. “Despite the White House’s spin, this is an unprecedented move that prioritizes a cheap political point ahead of the lives of women and girls around the world.”
The ‘Global Gag Rule’ is the commonly used term to describe the Mexico City Policy that was originally enacted by President Regan. The ‘Global Gag Rule’ prevents international organizations from receiving any U.S. global health assistance if they provide, counsel, refer or even mention abortion services — even if they are doing so with their own, non-U.S. funds and even if abortion is legal in their own country.
The policy was repealed by President Obama but President Trump reinstated the policy again in January 2017, and also expanded it so that the policy restriction applies to all U.S. global health funding provided by the US state department, including US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR is a flagship global health investment in fighting HIV in Africa and worldwide, and this expansion will have a devastating effect on HIV services.
The policy came into effect again on May 15th and the Trump Administration released guidance the same day on how NGOs receiving US funding will have to implement the policy. The US is the largest bilateral donor to the HIV and AIDS response, but under the gag rule, many HIV organisations funded by the US government stand to lose funding. Up to $9.4 billion of health, HIV and SRHR funding could be at risk.
Mike Podmore, Director of STOPAIDS in the U.K, said: “The Global Gag rule will force all NGOs receiving US funding to face a terrible choice –if you remain committed to provide women and girls with comprehensive, integrated HIV and SRH services you will lose substantial US funding.”
Integrated HIV and SRH services are an essential step to reaching the SDG targets to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 and achieving universal access to SRH services. Under the Global Gag Rule, an HIV clinic is not able to discuss abortion with a patient or even refer a patient to a family planning clinic that offers safe abortion.
Podmore said: “Trump’s decision will ultimately lead to increased numbers of unsafe abortions, prevent health workers from providing basic health care services and impede progress toward an end to the HIV pandemic.”
Act Up London activist, Mara Tralla said, ‘The Trump’s Global Gag Rule is an act of violence against women and children in low and middle income countries that will kill women. Removing funding to the most essential health services is based on a simple sexist patriarchal desire to control the globe. We stood by the US Embassy in London to say, ‘stop the abuse of power over women’s lives and the violation of basic human right to healthy life!’”